Monday, January 18, 2010

Volunteers wanted to give Bx students 'the leg up they need'

The Phipps Volunteer Tutoring Project is looking for a few good volunteers to serve in the West Farms community. Bronx Latino is helping to spread the word on this important project for the betterment of our residents.

Bronx Latino speaks with Samantha L. Koller, VISTA - NYC Civic Corps, Volunteer Tutoring Program Coordinator, The Phipps CDC and BronxWorks Group.

Here's the Q&A with Samantha:

Q: What is The Phipps Volunteer Tutoring Project and why did you want to bring it to the West Farms community?
A: The Phipps Volunteer Tutoring Project is an educational community service program that will bring students, seniors, and professionals into Phipps centers to tutor youth and adult learners. Our volunteers will serve in small groups at a scheduled time for about an hour and a half each week, covering middle and high school subjects, as well as pre-GED and ESL material.

Q: What do you look for in your volunteers? What skills should they have?
A: Volunteers can be from all walks in life—volunteers don’t need any tutoring experience. But we do ask that volunteers have a strong academic record so that they can support our students. Volunteers also need to make a commitment to working with their students for the duration of the semester.

Q: Why should community members consider volunteering in this project?
A: Volunteering as a Phipps tutor is a great way to contribute to the community and to help improve educational advancement in the South Bronx , where nearly 40% of residents live below the poverty line. Volunteers will help to open doors for young people and adults so they can achieve their education and employment goals. Opportunities to tutor ESL, pre-GED, and high school material will also help volunteers gain valuable experience as a tutor.

Q: How is this project unique from other tutoring programs?
A: Phipps Volunteer Tutoring Project is unique in that it has a collaborative, community-based structure in which volunteer tutors get to know each other, work together and benefit from each others' skills and support. Volunteers are welcome to serve with friends, partners, or family members (over the age of 16)--it’s a great, free way to spend time together.

Q: What are the goals of bringing this project to the West Farms community?
A: Phipps Community Development Corp. provides free classes and programs for youth and adults, and students and instructors asked for tutoring as a way to help provide one-on-one support. We are calling on volunteers to help give these students the leg up they need to achieve success. The goal of the program is to help Phipps students learn English, get their GED, or go to college, and to accomplish their goals in life.

Q: What are some of the challenges?
A: The biggest challenge so far has been getting the word out and attracting volunteers to our program. There aren’t a lot of visible volunteer programs dedicated to serving the Bronx , and we’re excited about the opportunity that we are able to provide. We’ve been tutoring this past semester, and it has been such a wonderful experience!

Q: What is the student population in West Farms and what are their needs?
A: We will be working with youth involved in after-school and Bridge to College programs, and with adults in pre-GED and ESL classes. Our students have diverse backgrounds—many are Latino, African-American, and West African. One thing our students have in common is that they are motivated and overcome obstacles every day to obtain their education. Many of the adults support their families or have jobs, and we have designed tutoring groups to fit in their daily schedule and accommodate irregular attendance when they can’t make it.

Q: What is the history of this program in West Farms?
A: The Phipps Volunteer Tutoring Project has been developed by members of the New York City Civic Corps. This is a first-year program, and we want to make it successful so that it can thrive here for years to come. This Corps is an NYC Service initiative dedicated to creating and supporting volunteer programs throughout the city. The goal of NYC Service is to make New York City the easiest city in the world in which to volunteer.

Q: Are there any other Bronx communities with this project? What are the future plans of this program in the Bronx?
A: Phipps has a vast array of programs supporting residents in West Farms, Melrose, Mott Haven, and other South Bronx communities, and we’d like to make tutors available to these programs, as well. But the program’s growth depends on recruiting enough volunteers!

Learn more at
or contact the Phipps Tutor Recruitment Team:
tel: (347) 329-3929 x227

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