U.Va. Student-Tutors Connect Homework with Hope for Local Youth

February 28, 2008

February 28, 2008 — When children at the Hope Community Center's after-school program began asking for help with homework, the center's sponsors turned to the University of Virginia's Community Relations Office to find student tutors.

Located in Charlottesville's 10th-and-Page neighborhood not far from U.Va., the Hope Community Center opened its doors in December 2006 to provide services, seminars and social programs for people in need.

Through a partnership with the Community Relations Office’s Day in the Life mentoring/tutoring program, the center can focus on a range of children’s needs, said Lori-Ann Strait, Hope Center's executive director. The children look forward to their tutors’ weekly visits, she said, and the experience becomes something they can depend on. Although their main focus is tutoring, the U.Va. students assume a bigger place in the children’s lives, she said.  

The Day in the Life program brings U.Va. students to the Hope Center to work with children ranging from kindergarteners to eighth-graders. The college students tutor the younger students one-on-one and lead other academic-related activities. They sometimes take children to U.Va. sporting events.

"The Day in the Life program is a vital part of connecting U.Va. and Charlottesville," said DITL site coordinator Daniel Howell, an ex-football player who has been involved with community service for more than 20 years. "It helps youth see U.Va. as a place for them."

"It helps them see how college students meet the challenges in their lives," said Viness Eugene, another Day in the Life site coordinator who worked with the Hope Center last fall. Eugene, who oversees other DITL programs at Burley Middle School and Evergreen Church, also mentioned the value of children being exposed to the diversity of U.Va. students.

Fourth-year U.Va. student Brianna Moreland said she fell in love with the Hope Center the first week she went there in September. She likes to go beyond tutoring to come up with extra activities with the children; for example, she’s planning to take her Wii game system there to hold a tournament, she said.

The Hope Center program is the 18th partnership the Day in the Life program has established with local schools, churches and other nonprofit groups.

The U.Va. Community Relations Office administers the Day in the Life Program. The program's program's 18 sites are coordinated by VISTA workers  and supported by AmeriCorps grants. They oversee almost 200 University student-tutors. Most of the U.Va. students are recruited from the Curry School of Education and receive credit for community service, but some come from other schools. Members of the Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society also have joined DITL. Altogether the tutors are making a difference in the lives of approximately 450 area youth.

"One of our office's most important outreach efforts is to residents living in neighborhoods bordering the University," said Ida Lee Wootten, community relations director.  "We look for ways we can help address residents' needs.  We are delighted that children in the 10th and Page neighborhood are receiving personalized tutoring through the Day in the Life program."