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If You Can Read This, Thank a Tutor

MCS enlists college kids to help elementary school students.

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At Memphis City Schools, the student becomes the teacher.

As part of the district's new Memphis Literacy Corps, MCS has recruited 1,000 college students to tutor elementary students in reading. Under the program, designed to bring overage students up to grade level for the TCAP test, college students will visit elementary schools three days a week for 10 weeks. During each visit, the tutor will work with two students.

"We're finding the elementary students are loving having a college student interested in them," says district literacy specialist Brenda Harris. "The motivation is reciprocal, because the college students feel like they're actually giving something back to the community."

Tutor Stephanie Wilkinson, an English major at Rhodes College, says she volunteered for the program because she wanted to make an impact.

"The educational system in our country is completely lacking, and something needs to change," she says. "One of my students is so incredible. She has already moved from a kindergarten reading level to a first-grade reading level. She just needed some help sounding out the words."

Both Wilkinson and Sammy Knefati, another tutor from Rhodes, think the program has had a profound effect on the elementary student's confidence.

Knefati says the program encourages the tutors to explain to students how each session will improve their reading skills and, ultimately, help them achieve a college education.

"This has helped quite a bit in having the students trust and respect their tutors and, most importantly, want to be there," he says.

Under the program, students not proficient in reading will be tutored until April 17th. After that, they will be enrolled in a summer reading clinic administered by certified teachers.

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