Bear to Bear program offers benefits for Baylor and JH Hines elementary

Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Bridget Sjoberg | Staff Writer

The Bear to Bear program seeks to provide opportunities for Baylor students to tutor and interact with students at Waco’s nearby JH Hines Elementary School. Each volunteer from Baylor is paired up with an elementary school student, providing advice and academic support on a weekly basis.

Baylor alumna Robin Newman currently serves as the family and community social worker at JH Hines and helps with training and matching up Baylor volunteers to JH Hines students. She views Bear to Bear as a program that provides benefits for both institutions and allows Baylor students to become involved in the local community.

“It was Baylor’s vision to really invest in schools and communities who are close to campus,” Newman said. “Because Hines is about a mile away from Baylor, it was an easy fit for students wanting to volunteer.”

According to Newman, Baylor students work directly with students usually in a tutoring capacity and their highest need is small group or individual tutoring.

Baylor students volunteer weekly at JH Hines, helping with either math tutoring on Tuesdays or reading tutoring on Wednesdays. Reading blocks with Pre-K through first grade students and helping out with after-school enrichment programs are also available for Baylor volunteers to become involved.

Maegan Stowe, office manager of external affairs described the program as one that allows for interaction and provides long-term support.

“Bear to Bear is a tutoring program allowing for any Baylor students to help out in areas like reading or math, which really help students out in the long run,” Stowe said.

San Antonio senior Sydney Drake said she has been tutoring with Bear to Bear for almost a year, and decided to get involved so she could help other students read at a young age.

“I feel like the importance of reading should be established at a young age,” Drake said. “As students, we can often forget that service goes beyond the Baylor community.”

One of the most impactful parts about being involved with Bear to Bear for Drake has been noticing the progression and improvement students experience in their schoolwork and testing.

“The STAR test focuses on reading and writing, and seeing kids expand their vocabulary is so inspiring,” Drake said. “Seeing how bright these kids are gets me excited about our future.”

Stowe pointed out that an important aspect of the Bear to Bear program is the relationships formed between Baylor and JH Hines students through meeting weekly during the school year.

“It’s a weekly commitment, which really provides consistency and helps build relationships between the matched students,” Stowe said.

Baylor volunteers also have the opportunity within Bear to Bear to help out at monthly events and family nights, as well as offered after-school enrichment programs, according to Newman.

“Our enrichment programs currently include drums, garden, yoga, STEM, history and gender specific leadership clubs,” Newman said. “If a Baylor student or group has a specific gift or hobby they would like to share with elementary students, we really welcome ideas for the after- school program.”

Along with benefiting JH Hines students academically, Stowe sees the program as a way for Baylor students to reach out and get involved in the Waco community.

“It really helps Baylor to connect to the community better,” Stowe said. “There’s a stigma of Baylor being a bubble, but this program really shows Baylor presence in the community and allows our volunteers to be ambassadors and really pour out into students. They can be examples to these students in the education system that they can go to college and achieve their goals and hopes for themselves.”

Newman said she has worked with JH Hines for the past five years and appreciates the relationship Hines and Baylor have formed to create a program that serves both groups in a special way.

“The Bear to Bear program is pretty powerful for both Baylor and JH Hines,” Newman said. “Our Hines’ students love being matched with college students, having one-on-one tutoring time and having exposure to college students. Baylor provides a unique resource in their large volunteer base to support the goals of our schools. By helping strengthen our schools and communities closest to Baylor, volunteers are helping to create college and career pipelines just one mile away from campus.”