Building community through volunteer tutoring at College of Communication
November 8, 2012
By Edmund Lawler
Thursday afternoons provide a special opportunity for the College of Communication to practice DePaul’s Vincentian mission. Faculty, staff and students from the college get together with children from Ruggles Elementary School in a one-on-one literacy tutoring program held on DePaul’s Loop campus.
The 25 fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders are participants in Working in the Schools (WITS), a city-wide program that promotes literacy and a love of learning in Chicago Public School students thanks to the generosity of more than 1,600 volunteers. DePaul is the second university—and the only one that brings the students to its campus—to partner with the nonprofit program, which works with nearly 40 corporations in the Chicago area to help children from underserved areas.
Speaks to the mission of DePaul
The alliance between the college and WITS, which launched earlier this year, began after Associate Dean Don Martin met two board members at a dinner. “Our work with the Ruggles students speaks so well to the mission and the values of DePaul,” says Martin. “Our faculty, staff and students truly enjoy helping them enhance their reading proficiency. These tutoring sessions also give the Ruggles students a taste of what life is like at a university.”
Martin and his wife, Vicky Gordon Martin, a management consultant, recently donated $5,000 to the nonprofit to support its annual back-to-school luncheon that celebrated the volunteers, teachers, school administrators and partners who have invested in the 21-year-old WITS program.
“The Ruggles students benefit from the tutoring,” says Assistant Professor Sean Horan, who coordinates the day-to-day logistics of the DePaul-WITS alliance. “But another benefit is the strong sense of community that is built among faculty, staff and students in the college. This is something we all look forward to doing.”
Ruggles students, accompanied by a teacher and a chaperone from their school on Chicago’s South Side, arrive together at DePaul’s Loop campus on a school bus after their regular class day is over. The students bring a book of their choosing that volunteers focus on during half of the one-hour tutoring session. In the second half, the young students and their tutors can continue with that book or concentrate on a homework assignment.
Tovah Burstein, a WITS program coordinator, says the Ruggles students love working with the College of Communication volunteers. “The children can be a little nervous at first, but they quickly became very comfortable at DePaul because they were so welcoming and eager to put the students at ease. The DePaul volunteers are very committed to making the alliance work.”