Quinnipiac’s America Reads program will receive an award on Dec. 5 for being recognized as an Excellent Partner by the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.
America Reads is a work study program that places students in multiple locations in the Greater New Haven area, either in an elementary school or the Boys and Girls Club of New Haven.
The 35 students currently involved in the program are working as tutors or instructional aides in six different institutions: the Boys and Girls Club in New Haven, St. Aedan’s Parochial School, St. Bernadette’s School, and St. Francis & St. Rose of Lima School in New Haven; and Church Street School and Bridgedale School in Hamden.
Quinnipiac’s America Reads program has partnered with these schools for more than 12 years, and the teachers “love” the help that university tutors provide, Director of Community Service Vincent Contrucci said.
“Teachers can rely upon them,” Contrucci said. “They appreciate the skills that our students bring to the classrooms, and the fact that it’s a very professionalized job role. Our America Reads program provides a workforce that really wants to be in that environment; they want to make a difference in the lives of the students that they’re working with.”
The St. Francis & St. Rose of Lima School has even showcased the America Reads program on informational materials given to potential new students.
“They want to show families, ‘We have America Reads at our school,’” Contrucci said. “They [consider] it one of the benefits of getting an education at St. Francis St. Rose.”
Tutors’ duties vary depending on where they are placed, but in general they assist with homework completion, act as instructional aides in a classroom or work one-on-one with struggling students.
Sophomore Briana LaPegna has been involved with the program for nearly two semesters. She works at Church Elementary School and provides assistance to children who need extra help in math, history, science and reading.
“I love getting the chance to be the change in a child’s education,” LaPegna said. “I think it is very important that every child gets the chance to be successful in his or her future, and it all starts with having a good support system when they start school.”
LaPegna is currently working with a class of 12 students who all have some type of special needs or are at a very low reading level. She says it is exciting to see the students grow academically as the semester goes on.
“It can sometimes be challenging to teach when they are impatient or not interested, but it’s important to stay positive and take your time because there is a good chance that they will not have the academic support they need at home,” she said.
Her opinion is shared by sophomore and aspiring teacher Jacob Sheldon, who got involved with the program to get early exposure to the education system.
“The America Reads program is an excellent opportunity to learn about how lucky many of us are,” Sheldon said. “Many of the students do not come from the best neighborhoods, but they are all excited to be at school everyday. If anyone is thinking of working with children, there is no better program to become a part of than America Reads.”
Students that apply for America Reads either have past experience in working with kids or want to pursue a career where they work with young people, according to Contrucci. Tutors’ majors have included nursing, occupational therapy, physical therapy, education, psychology and social work.
“It has innumerable benefits,” Contrucci said. “[Tutors] learn about having one-on-one contact with kids and how to deal with emergency situations. [They] learn different strategies from our partnering teachers about how to interact with kids in a way they can understand and grow from.”
The program has a retention rate of at least 90 percent for tutors, according to Contrucci. He says that students enjoy the work study job and will return semester after semester.
“This program is very rewarding and I actually look forward to going to work,” LaPegna said. “I would recommend this program to anyone with a work study job because I honestly have absolutely nothing negative to say. I can’t wait to continue my journey with America Reads the rest of my two years here at Quinnipiac.”