A grant-funded partnership with East Carolina University will put a select group of LCPS seniors to work as tutors for middle school students who need help in math and science courses.
The STEM-Corps East program now wrapping up its organizational phase uses a federal AmeriCorps grant valued at $2.05 million over three years to establish the pilot program in Lenoir, Beaufort and Pitt counties and reward the student tutors financially with a stipend and money set aside for their college education.
The experience should be equally beneficial for the tutors and for the students they tutor, says Dr. Betty G. Beacham, STEM-Corps East executive director.
“We want the tutors to experience personal and professional growth, and we want them to come away with the sense they can make a difference in their community and that they have the leadership skills to be able to do that,” Beacham said.
“For the kids sitting in the classroom, we want to move that success needle for them,” she said. “With this additional support, we want them to master STEM concepts and skills.”
STEM education involves science, technology, engineering and math; but middle school scores on end-of-grade math tests pointed in particular to the need for focused assistance and convinced ECU’s College of Education to concentrate its AmeriCorps funds on STEM. Previously, it has used AmeriCorps members as reading tutors and in an outreach effort aimed at military families.
“I like math and I like helping people with math,” Julnesia Hodges of Kinston High School, one of the eight seniors chosen as LCPS tutors, said.
According to Amy Jones, the district’s director of high school education who’s managing the program locally, potential tutors were identified with the help of school counselors. “They had to be top students,” she said.
Tutors commit to 900 service hours. For that, they will receive a stipend of $5,000 and an education award valued at up to $2,887 that can go for expenses like tuition and books.
The money isn’t inconsequential, said tutor Haven Fleming of North Lenoir High School – “especially when you’re going to an out-of-state school” – but her aims for helping younger students are more altruistic.
“Hopefully, I can teach them new ways to approach a problem,” she said. “I know a lot of people don’t learn the same way; so by getting to know the individual, I can help them learn to solve a problem in the way that works for them.”
Along with Hodges and Fleming, LCPS tutors are Bryce Dixon and Ashley Avery of Kinston High School, Mary Tyndall and Kaitlyn Grange of South Lenoir High School and Noah Jackson and Raven Breinholt of Lenoir County Early College High School.
After training early next month, they will begin working at their assigned middle schools under the supervision of classroom teachers. They have until Aug. 31 to log their service hours.
In the interim, STEM-Corps East expects young tutors in the three counties to improve math and science skills for hundreds of elementary and middle school students. And maybe more.
“I’d like to see real interest generated by public school kids in STEM-related careers,” Beacham said. “Our long-term hope is that this program will become part of the economic pipeline, that we get kids in the pipeline and get them prepared and get them ready for a career with a two-year or four-year college degree.”
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