By Ariadne Aberin
About 33 percent of Texas high school freshmen will fail to graduate with their high school diploma, according to a study done by the Alliance for Excellent Education. Several programs in Waco aim to reduce this percentage, and hopefully eradicate it.
Communities in Schools is a dropout prevention program that focuses on keeping kids in school. The program works with students ages 4 to 17.
“Communities in Schools aims to provide students with the tools they need to be successful in school and overcome barriers in life,” said Amy Murphy, a social worker who also heads the mentoring program for Communities in Schools.
She added that academic enhancement was the main focus of the program. The program provides students with tutors for a wide range of subjects, including English, language arts, reading, math and science.
“The tutors mainly provide homework help, but they also can bring their own material,” Murphy said.
There is much collaboration between the teachers and the tutors as well. Communities in Schools has about 60 tutors who tutor students in Waco ISD and La Vega ISD. Many of the tutors are Baylor students. Tutoring for the Communities in Schools program counts as work study for Baylor students, and Baylor has a partner program with Communities in Schools called Baylor Buddies.
Through the Baylor Buddies program, Baylor students have an opportunity to mentor students in the Waco ISD. Mentors will meet with a student for one hour once a week at the student’s school and participate in monthly events on the Baylor campus or in the community with their fellow Baylor buddies.
“The students responded very well to the program,” Stacey Kerr, in charge of recruitment for Communities in Schools, said. “College-aged students are able to relate to the students very well, especially the high school students, because it hasn’t been that long since the college students were their age.”
Murphy said having the high school students work with college students has also helped the students realize the importance of a college education, which is one of the program’s main goals.
The program, although primarily an academic enhancement program, also has social workers at the various schools they work with who act as case managers on the campus.
Murphy said that generally, social workers with the program carry a caseload of 140 students. The social workers mainly work with the students who are most at-risk for not graduating, dropping out or simply failing a class. The social workers will also work with students on personal issues.
“We do a lot of supportive guidance, parental involvement and we also work with students who have academic issues, issues with home life, poverty and pregnant teens,” Murphy said.
Kerr said the program was a great way for students not only to get homework help from a private tutor, it was also a way for them to build up their self-esteem and learn to get the confidence they need to succeed in any endeavor.
Mentors are there for help with non-academic aspects, such as helping the students to establish healthy relationships with their peers and teaching them to be good listeners.
The mentors also assist students with issues they might have at home.
Students interested in volunteering can visit http://www.cis-hot.org/.