JCU volunteers partner with Options students

JCU volunteers, with Brian Williams, (back row, second from left).

It takes a village to raise a child. Brian Williams, coordinator of alternative education for the CH-UH City School District’s Options Center, would argue that the same applies to raising a teenager.

The teenagers in his care, 145 high-school students who are working to recover their credits and get back on the track to graduation, benefit from a “village” of regular volunteers from John Carroll University (JCU).

Nearly 40 college students visit the Options Center, located in the Delisle Building, for 90 minutes each week to tutor students. The program is organized by the Center for Service and Social Action at JCU  and coordinated by J.P. Graulty, JCU’s assistant director for community partnerships.

Graulty noted that a majority of JCU students do community service work as part of a course requirement. He called the placement at Options “a good fit for a wide variety of courses, and an obvious one for students in education courses." He added, "It's also a good fit for students in an introduction to theology course, which focuses on social injustice.” 

For education students, the experience can prove invaluable. Because they often tutor during their first year, students are able to determine if teaching is actually the right career choice for them. Graulty reports that some education students have moved to a different major after tutoring, while others switched their major to education. 

For Pierce Srail, a JCU senior majoring in supply chain management, the experience has been rewarding and eye-opening. Drawn to the program after taking a course on the social change model of entrepreneurship, Srail said, “I’m getting back as much as I’m giving to students. It’s interesting to hear their perspectives on life and see where they’ve come from and where they’re going. They all hope to go to college.”

The weekly tutoring sessions should help them reach their goal.

“This has helped me improve so much, especially in reading comprehension and vocabulary,” said Heights High senior Siera Wesley, who regrets that she didn't take advantage of the program last year, adding, “Now I know how much it helps.” The experience has taught her to take advantage of help whenever it’s offered, a value she plans to carry with her into college and a career.

Having just said goodbye to the first semester cohort of volunteers, with gifts of Tiger Nation gear bags, Williams and the Options students are already looking forward to the next group of JCU students, slated to begin their 10-week volunteer stint in February.

Williams believes the program leads to real academic gains, especially because all Options students follow an individualized curriculum. “This is a very rich partnership,” he said. 

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District.

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Volume 12, Issue 1, Posted 10:12 AM, 01.01.2019