REACH stands for Raising Education Attainment Challenge. The REACH Program at the Cornell Public Service Center is a student initiative consisting of Team Leaders, America Reads/Counts Challenge tutors (ARCC), and volunteer tutors committed to supporting community organizations and schools serving children’s academic and social needs.

The purpose of the program is to recruit and mobilize a diverse, talented group of tutors so that they may have the necessary resources, peer support, and leadership to assist in the enhancement of academic achievement of children and youth in grades pre-K-12th.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

EYES Travels to Groton Elementary School - Nate Houghton (Groton ES)

One Cornell Public Service Center program can certainly make a huge difference in the educational experience of a young student, but when two work together, the possibilities are boundless. The latest example of successful collaboration between REACH and another PSC group came less than two weeks ago, when EYES (Encouraging Young Engineers and Scientists) traveled to Groton Elementary School to teach the students a few principles of structural engineering. Working first with marshmallows and dry spaghetti before graduating to gum drops and wooden sticks, the budding builders discovered the basics behind many of the structures they see every day as well as their own potential as thinkers and scientists. The experience was valuable for everyone involved - except, perhaps, the parents who had to convince their children to go home eventually.

How REACH inspires me - Rebecca Zuckerman (Boynton Middle School)

Hi, my name is Rebecca and I am a tutor at Boynton Middle School. I work with a program called the Advantage After School program whose main goal is to improve the grades of those that are struggling in school by providing additional homework help. After the homework hour, we have an hour of activities that include playing sports, making arts and crafts, cooking, etc. It is a truly incredible experience every time because we often work with different students depending who needs help. This enables the tutors to make connections with many of the students, who always look forward to seeing us again.

Both students and tutors alike always enjoy the activity portion of the program because it is a time when we can finally relax and just have a good time with one another without worrying about homework and studying. However, I find that the most rewarding part is when a student can actually check off all of the assignments that they had to do that day and know that they accomplishment something important. When I first started volunteering, many of the students saw homework as something they just have to get through and not as a tool that can help them learn. But after two years of working with the students and watching them grow, I can see a change in their attitudes towards learning and towards school in general.

Working with REACH has given me great inspiration for the future. I am able to see how these students, who have always struggled with their schoolwork and have not had any academic motivation, are not only starting to improve their grades but are also developing a greater appreciation for learning.

We don't just tutor... - Dipen Patel (Northeast Kids Count)

So as many of you know, one of the primary goals of REACH is tutoring kids and helping to reduce the education achievement gap (If you did not know this then you do now). But in addition to tutoring, we try to provide a positive environment for the kids we tutor. With these intentions in mind, last Friday afternoon at Northeast Elementary, REACH tutors helped to organize an Easter egg hunt at our site.

Now the effort on our part was by no means extraordinary (Steps for an Easter Egg Hunt: 1) Buys Eggs, 2) Fill Eggs with Candy, 3) Hide Eggs). However the look of excitement it brought the children probably was. The kids practically knocked us over to get to the eggs. I personally was a little scared. We even witnessed some childhood ingenuity. As a two-egg limit was set to make sure every child got his or her fair share, some kids would try to sneak the candy out of the eggs and then return the egg to its originally hiding spot (There was some extra so everyone still managed to find two filled eggs).

In addition, not only did the kids enjoy the event, but the staff could not have been more appreciative. They were delighted to see the joy that our little gesture brought the kids. (And we had a good time ourselves) For a little teaser of the festivities, check out the pictures below. Naturally, you’ll have to join REACH if you want to experience it yourselves.

Can you spot the hidden eggs?

Friday, April 10, 2009

What NOT to do in REACH!

Here are the skits created and performed by REACH tutors at our 2nd In-Service Training on March 28, 2009. The prompts consisted of things a REACH tutor should NOT do while at their site, and the antics that may ensue. Congratulations to the "NCAA Racist Wannabes" for winning the skit contest! Check them out!

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Benefits of a Rural Site - Rachel Healy (Cassavant)

Hi! I’m Rachel, the team leader for Cassavant Elementary School. I find volunteering at Cassavant to be an especially rewarding experience due to its involvement in the REACH rural initiative. As part of REACH rural, the YMCA program at Cassavant is located in McLean – a hamlet within the town of Groton – and is thus quite a tiny program. The small size of the program allows tutors to form friendships with the majority of the students there. This is my third semester at Cassavant and most of the students that I know have been there since my first day. It’s a wonderful occurrence to go to the school each week and see how excited the kids are just to have another friend there. Also, because Cassavant is located within such a rustic community, there are numerous opportunities to teach and talk to the kids about ideas and issues with which they are unfamiliar; the learning opportunities for the children go well beyond the subjects taught in the classroom.

Another aspect of Cassavant’s involvement in REACH rural that draws me to the site is that unlike many of the other REACH sites, Cassavant is not within close proximity to Cornell’s campus, and transportation is required to get there. My REACH experience takes on an entirely different element than only tutoring the kids; the van rides to and from the site provide additional opportunities for socializing with other tutors. Besides the tutors from my site, the Groton Elementary School team is also present for the van rides. Not only do the van rides allow the tutors to get to know each other personally, but they also foster communication between the two sites and a better understanding of how the REACH program operates. On the whole, I’ve had fantastic experiences working at Cassavant because of the friendships I’ve developed with the kids and other tutors, as well as the teaching opportunities that working within REACH rural provides.

How it all started... - Clara Lee (SIFE)

Being in my third year of REACH, one thing I’ve learned from the program is the importance of continuity. Not just the continuity of showing up every week at your site, or even every month. It’s the continuity of being there for the kids as they grow from year to year and maintaining that connection with them.

Before I became the team leader at SIFE this semester, I worked at West Village Community Center for five semesters, since my fall semester of freshman year. It was during my first semester at West Village when I met the children of a group of Karen refugees in the West Village after-school program. The Karen people are an ethnic group from Burma and Thailand who are currently experiencing political instability and persecution by Burmese authorities. This extended family previously lived in refugee camps in the Burma-Thailand border before immigrating to Ithaca. I couldn’t even imagine the conditions that they must have lived in, coming from a fairly comfortable life in Southern California and Cornell.

The younger children spoke almost no English, which certainly posed many communication problems (how do you tell a non-English speaking child to throw his/her trash away, or to wash their hands after snack?) I remember their surprise and fascination the first time they saw running water in our sink. Yet, they were just like any other children, filled with boundless energy (and mischief) and always with a smile on their face. As my semesters in West Village passed by, I watched them learn and grow in leaps and bounds.

Last semester, I was told that these children would be attending an after-school program called SIFE at Belle Sherman Elementary (where many of them attended), a program specially tailored for their social and academic needs. As a new REACH site, it would need a team leader. Well, would I be interested?

Yes. And so, here I am.

~ Clara