Gusties in the community

The Study Buddies Program is a tutoring and classroom assistance program facilitated by the Community Service Center at Gustavus that partners with educational facilities in the St. Peter community. The program sends student volunteers to St. Peter Schools as well as the Community Center to help young people learn. This year, the Study Buddies Program began an afterschool pilot program at South Elementary for a group of second graders, and the program has been a huge success.

Last spring, the Study Buddies coordinators sent out an e-mail to the principals in St. Peter to see if any of them were interested in beginning an afterschool program at their school for homework help and basic skill development. Nancy Kluck was the first to reply.  “We had a growing need for our students to receive additional help in some of the basic skill development areas.  Our afterschool programs had focused on other areas, and it just made sense to get kids help with homework and skill development,” Kluck, the principal at South Elementary said.

The partnership between Senior Music Education Major Elizabeth Winslow and Kluck resulted, and soon the two had established a plan for the fast approaching school year. The pilot program is made up of roughly 8 second grade students each day and 8 Gustavus student volunteers, half whom work with the students on Tuesday and half whom work with the students on Wednesday.

“The students who participate were identified by Kluck and their teachers as needing a little extra work in their basic skills. Then, their parents were asked if they would like their child to participate in our program,” said Winslow.
The Gustavus students run the program by first allowing a snack time and then dividing the second graders into groups. These groups either go work on a reading computer program or have homework time and a skill-enhancing activity, which, as Winslow phrased it, “is fun, so it tricks the kids into learning.” Then the groups switch, along with their student volunteer. This way, one volunteer stays with the group throughout the day and can build relationships with the students.

“It’s really exciting to see how much progress the kids have made already,” Winslow said.  The teachers are noticing it too. Kluck explained that they plan to expand the program in January to include first graders as well, and she hopes that eventually the program will run every day after school.

The teachers aren’t the only ones at South Elementary who are fans of this new program; the kids love it too. “When I see the kids in the hall and ask them how they’re doing, they say they’re having so much fun after school with the Gustavus students,” Kluck said. The change in attitude toward learning may be one of the most lasting effects of this new program.

For more information or to participate in the Study Buddies Program and the expanding afterschool program at South Elementary, stop by the Community Service Center.