By Natalie Berg
Grinnellians interested in education will find a multitude of opportunities to get involved in local schools. Classes in the Education Department are one path, as they all require a certain number of hours in local classrooms, and provide a chance for students to do more.
“I was connected to a local teacher [at Fairview Elementary School]” said Maria Richardson ’15, describing volunteer work she did last year. “We set up a few hours a week for me to come into the school and be a teaching assistant. I would do things like get the materials ready or help tutor students who needed a little extra help.”
The Center for Religion, Spirituality and Social Justice (CRSSJ) can arrange volunteer work in classrooms, as they did for Richardson, who took Education 101 last year and wanted to spend more time in elementary schools.
“It was a really good experience for me and I think it was a really good aid to support the curriculum of my education class. It was nice to have a practicum of sorts to supplement the theory that we were learning and to see hands-on what was going on in schools,” Richardson said.
Education seems to be a point of high interest at Grinnell. In the last year, Grinnellians have also started reaching out to local students through programs like CLIK Cats and Drake Tutors.
“We pair college students with elementary school kids that have been identified by their teachers as needing extra help with reading,” said Nicole Robertson ’14, one of the coordinators of CLIK Cats.
CLIK stands for Communities for Literate Iowa Kids. According to Robertson, calling the group CLIK Cats makes it more fun and relatable for the kids.
“[Teachers have told us that] the kids who have volunteers coming in would just light up when it was their day. … It’s fun for the volunteers, too,” Robertson said. “[The program is] really mutually beneficial.”
Last year, 30 volunteers worked with roughly 45 second and third-graders for one hour each week at Bailey Park Elementary, Fairview Elementary and Davis Elementary.
“This year, [CLIK Cats is] expanding to work with kids from first through fourth grade. It could be upwards of 70 kids that we work with, but it also depends on our volunteer source…We’re hoping to have more and we’re still accepting volunteers,” Robertson said.
The Drake Tutors, another student-run volunteer program, also works with local students.
About 25 college students spend an hour a week in the Drake Community Library, providing homework help for kids in third to eighth grade.
“We help them out and give them little tricks to make [their homework] a little easier,” said Devan Steward ’15, one of the organizers of Drake Tutors. “We usually get anywhere between three and five [students from the community] each day…anywhere from 15 and 20 a week.”
The Drake Tutors have plenty of volunteers this year, but CLIK Cats are still looking for interested helpers. In addition, the CRSSJ is a great resource for students who would like to set up long-term volunteer commitments with local teachers.