Durham kids getting SMARTer thanks to tutoring

By Chelsetia Davis
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

(Editor’s note: This story is a follow-up to an October 2010 Voice story. http://durhamvoice.org/durham-church-launches-cutting-edge-program/)

“Ms. Ross I got a 100!” says fifth-grader Faith Resno who is all smiles as she completes her online math lesson through Education City. Even after attending school all day, Faith is happy when she comes to the 21st Century Community Learning Center SMART program housed at Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Durham.

Litzy Flores, Nikayla Shackle and Roberto Luna enjoy a quick snack break before getting back to their learning games. (Staff photo by Chelsetia Davis)

“We try not to have it like school here,” says program director Laurell Malone, who is also an associate professor in the School of Education at N.C. Central University. “We don’t give out worksheets. We use mathematical games and computer programs for students to enjoy learning while progressing.”

Malone explains that there is a need for youth to participate in programs such as the 21st Century Community Learning Center SMART Program. Based on the East Durham demographics, tutoring programs are beneficial to the development and growth of students.

The SMART Program intends to expand the knowledge of science, mathematics, advocacy, reading and technology to students. According to their brochure, SMART has been able to provide about 60 percent of eligible families with tools and skills they need to help their child’s improvement.

“This program has been helping my daughter improve in math,” says parent Elishe Epps. “Other after school programs are not as academically based.”

The SMART program currently has 80 students enrolled from Bethesda, Burton, Spring Valley and Y.E. Smith Elementary. These schools with the exception of Bethesda and Spring Valley, have shown a low performance in math, literacy and science.

“We look at the student’s weaknesses, sit down and highlight the things we can do to improve on the particular subject,” says Malone.

Malone and her team received a four year grant from the N.C. Department of Instruction 21st Century Community Centers in 2010.

This helps with the cost of field-trips, learning supplies and other tools beneficial to students as well as parents.

They received $159,000 for the first two years but the program grant will soon be minimized.

“Parents do not have to pay for anything,” says Malone. “We provide everything through the grant,” They will soon be going on a trip to Hillside High school to see Hairspray.

After the grant ends, they hope the church will continue to sponsor the program, since the concept of the program was first recognized by Pastor H.L Dickerson.

Parents may also need to contribute, but this is yet to be considered.

“We need to come up with ideas to keep the program progressing,” says Dr. Malone.

The program director has been coming up with different concepts to financially support the program, without taking anything away from students. One idea is a partnership with Target, which could be beneficial to the financial success of the tutoring program.

Schools and students that benefited from the program

Y.E. Smith Elementary is one school located in the NECD that has shown low reading scores and satisfactory scores in math; meaning they did not meet the expected academic growth.

Programs such as the SMART program help students set academic goals to improve upon their state test scores as well as overall academic and social success. The teachers are licensed professionals whose passion and drive for educational improvement has been recognized by students and parents.

Jamar Sidberry, a student at R.N. Harris Elementary School sits at a table by himself focused on the iPad students use to work on educational sites. “I had a C in math and now I have a B,” says Sidberry.

Faith Resno works carefully to complete her lesson in Education City. She is proud of her improvement in math thanks to the 21st Century Community Learning Center SMART program. (Staff photo by Chelsetia Davis)

Since 2010, the program has maintained its hard work ethic and has provided a safe and fun environment for children to learn. The program recently welcomed five new students.

“I love that this program is about academics,” says Epps. “Ms. Waters takes her time when teaching my daughter in math.”
A place for students and parents

The teacher student ratio is 1:10, which allows students to concentrate more than in a classroom that has thirty children and one teacher. It is evident that there is a special bond between teachers and students that has been influential in the lives of parents and children.

The computer lab is where students can practice their mathematics online using the program Education City. This computer-based program creates lessons for students based on their capabilities.

Therefore, teachers use Education City as a guideline when planning their lessons for their class.

“We set a mastery level at 70 percent and once students achieve that goal, we raise it up,” explains Malone. “Our ultimate goal is 90 percent.”

The other program, Second Step, teaches character building and is given once a week to students.

Parents are also given an opportunity to learn a few lessons on resume building.

Recently, parents participated in The Extreme Makeover workshop that was hosted by NCCU Career Services.

The workshop informed parents about marketing their resumes online, and some parents are in the process of building their resume with the help of the program.

Nevertheless, the SMART program continues to focus on celebrating student achievement in mathematics, literacy and science while remaining an asset to the NECD community.

“The students don’t know how much they are improving,” says fifth grade teacher Priscilla Ross.

Parents whose children are struggling academically can contact Laurell Malone at lmalone2@nc.rr.com or 919-685-5676. The SMART Center operates at Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church at 505 East End Avenue off Angier Avenue, on Mondays- Thursdays from 3:30-6 p.m.

Weblinks: http://www.ogmbc.org/content.cfm?id=363