Ben Hastil, an AmeriCorps*VISTA member with Ohio Campus Compact, was placed at Hocking College in Athens County this past July. Athens County is part of Appalachian Ohio and is a historically poverty-stricken county that currently faces an unemployment rate of over 30%. For the county's youth, higher education is a crucial pathway out of poverty, yet only 7% of residents age 25 and over in this region of Ohio have an associate's degree and only 15% have a bachelor's degree.
Since July, Ben has developed and coordinated the Hocking College Youth Tutoring Program, a community program developed as a college access and anti-poverty initiative for the elementary school children in the county. The program’s mission is to increase the number of local elementary school children who will go on to graduate from high school and who will be prepared for and interested in going to college. Through the program, Hocking College students are trained as tutors and placed at the underfunded and understaffed elementary schools and after-school programs in the county, where they provide the one-on-one tutoring that many elementary school children need to succeed in school.
Over the course of this school year, this program has sent almost 30 tutors to seven local elementary schools and five after-school program sites, and the Hocking College students have provided over 1,500 hours of tutoring to more than 500 elementary school children on fundamental reading and math skills.
Program evaluation by the schools and after-school programs, with which the Hocking College Youth Tutoring Program partners, has shown that the program’s tutors have consistently been able to improve the performance of the students that they have been tutoring. Specifically, the teachers and after-school program coordinators have reported that their elementary school students have shown increased confidence about their ability to succeed in school, a greater ability to complete their schoolwork independently, and improved test scores.
By mobilizing college students to work with younger students to help them succeed in school, this program has increased local elementary school children’s likelihood of graduating from high school, and of being prepared for and accepted to college, as well as increased their interest in pursuing higher education, by providing them with a college student role-model. Additionally, Hocking College students, many who come from low-income backgrounds themselves, have benefited from this program, as they have been able to gain valuable experience working in our education system and with children, empowering educational and interpersonal skills, and a greater involvement and investment in the community.
Because the program utilizes an innovative volunteer-driven model to provide tutors to the community, not only can the program be provided to the community for free, but the program’s ability to serve the community is unaffected by the uncertain economy and funding cuts that have limited many other organizations’ services.
For all these reasons, we believe that the Hocking College Youth Tutoring Program represents the best in high impact, innovative, and empowering national and community service.