Madison House Volunteers Get Back on The Bus To Tutor in Local Schools

February 27, 2024 By Alice Berry, Alice Berry,

University of Virginia students are hopping on the yellow school bus and headed back to school.

More than a hundred student volunteers at Madison House, the independent non-profit which serves as the volunteer center for UVA students, are riding Albemarle County Public Schools buses to tutor in elementary, middle and high schools in the county.

The pilot tutoring program provides transportation to students who want to volunteer to work with kids at schools in the county district but don’t have transportation to get there. Madison House has more than 250 students volunteering in schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle. The program is one of the ways UVA is working toward President Jim Ryan’s goal of being a good neighbor to the Charlottesville area.

Related Story

Excellence Here Goes Everywhere, To Be Great and Good In All We Do
Excellence Here Goes Everywhere, To Be Great and Good In All We Do

“The biggest issue with volunteering at local schools is that there are only two in walking distance,” Kate Brisky, a second-year student at UVA and the tutoring program’s director, said. “A lot of people wanted to do it, but couldn’t.”

That’s where the tutoring bus comes in. Every day, two school buses pick up students from Madison House and drop them off at schools in both rural and urban parts of the county.

Fourth-year cognitive science major Sydney Saviano found out about the new program through Instagram. After tutoring younger students in high school, she’d turned to some online tutoring opportunities, but missed being able to have more personal interaction. She immediately sent the Instagram post to her friend, who was also looking for volunteer opportunities.

UVA Students gather for a selfie
More than 250 UVA students volunteer at local schools, offering kids extra support and one-on-one time during a busy school day. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

“I was like, ‘This is perfect for us because we don’t have cars,’” Saviano said.

Saviano started tutoring at Red Hill Elementary School in southern Albemarle County a little more than a month ago. Many of the students in the second-grade class she helps out said they look forward to the tutors’ visits.

“It’s my favorite part of the day,” Ashton, a student who works with Saviano, said.

When the tutors visit Red Hill, they help with math and reading skills. Some of the kids are eager to leave addition behind and move on to their times tables, while others need a little more support to get up to speed on multiplication. 

A UVA student works one on one with a kid
Each of the students that Sydney Saviano tutors are at different levels in math and reading, but Saviano helps them reach their goals. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

“My favorite part is it gets harder and harder,” a Red Hill student named Aiden said.

Saviano is patient and offers them encouragement when they falter. In return, they’ve given her friendship bracelets and chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

“I was just surprised at how quickly they would build a relationship with me,” Saviano said.

One of the second graders recently arrived from Mexico. He didn’t know much English, and Saviano didn’t know much Spanish. During a period of weeks – and with the help of a bilingual classmate – the two have figured out how to communicate with each other. He’s even taught Saviano how to count to 50 in Spanish.

A group of kids gathered at a table working on an activity
Students at Red Hill Elementary School clamor for the chance to spend time with Madison House volunteers. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

“Any way to help the students feel accepted, that’s the best way for me to form a relationship with them,” Saviano said.

The elementary students aren’t the only ones doing the learning. As a distinguished major in cognitive science, Saviano researches kids’ cognitive flexibility as they move between tasks. Now, she can see that happening outside the lab as she works as a tutor in the classroom. Saviano also said she gets personal satisfaction at seeing the kids master math problems or read aloud more fluently.

“I love going so much,” Saviano said. “It’s such a meaningful experience, and I am so grateful for it.”

Media Contact

Alice Berry

University News Associate Office of University Communications