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Mullins marks successful first year of tutoring classes

The first year of an after-school tutoring program forBrookhaven School District elementary students has ended, and theprogram’s directors are claiming success.

The class members’ progress was celebrated Tuesday afternoonwith a pizza party at Mullins School – where the bi-weekly sessionsare hosted – in which the students and volunteer tutors werepresented with certificates of achievement and much praise.

Mullins School teacher and tutoring instructor Stella H. Smithpointed out how the two-hour tutoring sessions have not onlyworked, but worked well for the approximately 25 studentsenrolled.

“Some were failing and now are passing,” she said. “We’ve seenthese students grow academically.”

Smith recounted a long list of students who have used the tutoringclass to climb from the depths of failing in several subjects towell above passing. Throughout the year, the class has even servedas a platform for students who are in good shape academically toimprove even more.

“Some students who are challenged in certain areas and needindividual attention, we work one-on-one with them,” Smith said.”For those who are already on track, we have enrichment andenhancement activities.”

Not all of the progress made in the tutoring sessions is academic.Smith said the class also teaches character education.

“We teach the students not only academics, but manners andbehavior,” she said. “We’re consistent about rules and classroombehavior.”

Smith said the class was able to bring about such improvement inthe students by focusing on specific areas – the Mullins sessionsare not simply an after-school study hall. When students areenrolled in the program, they are sent with details of their weakand strong subjects, allowing the tutors to single out the areas inwhich a particular student will need work.

The progress of each student is tracked throughout the year, andthose who have returned to normal academic status or advancedbeyond the program are mustered out.

“We get copies of report cards and progress reports – we monitortheir grades,” Smith said. “If their grades are constantly high,they’re advanced out of the tutoring program – there are more thatare ready to move in.”

Lipsey School fifth-grader Akaysha Dillon is advancing out of theprogram. Her mother, Tarri Fells, said the sessions made all thedifference for her daughter.

“Her grades have totally improved,” Fells said. “She’s doing herwork on her own – I don’t have to sit side-by-side with heranymore. She has the initiative, she wants to do it.”

Fells said she had expectations for the future of the tutoringprogram, and so do its directors.

“Hopefully, this program will keep growing and get bigger andbigger,” said Karen Henderson, director of the Parent Center andtutoring instructor. “As we grow, we want to go all the way throughthe 12th grade, and one of these days we will. We’re just startingoff – we’re gonna have to have more teachers and tutors to helpwith these children.”

Ximena Hawkins, a Brookhaven High School junior who tutors in theprogram, thinks the program should be expanded sooner rather thanlater.

“I think the class should be moved to a bigger facility,” she said.”A lot more children could benefit from this if given the chance. Aprogram like this is going to be really important to the communityas it grows.”