Harding University students volunteer time for tutoring

By Emily Van Zandt Originally Published April 14, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 12, 2013 at 11:38 a.m.
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Emily Van Zandt

Freshman Matthew Shafer works with a student during one of the free tutoring sessions offered at the Searcy Honors Center at Harding University. The sessions, held each Tuesday and Thursday during the school year, are aimed at local junior high and high school students.

— On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, the chatter in the kitchen at the Sears Honors Center on Harding University’s campus gets a little louder.

Snacks are set out in the house’s retro ’50s-themed kitchen as kids and college students wander in, snagging seats at the kitchen table or on living room couches. It’s a ritual that’s been happening since 2001, when the Honors College first established its tutoring program.

Harding honors students volunteer from 3:30-5 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday during the school year to provide junior high and high school students from the Searcy area with free homework help and test prep. The program is student-run, headed this semester by graduate student Kelly Dell.

“I started off with a list of contacts at area schools, but I really didn’t have to reach out to anyone; most of our students call us and come back each year,” Dell, 23, said.

Each week, Dell emails the honors students asking for volunteers. Though some volunteers only come once every few weeks, Dell said a core group of around eight volunteers comes each time.

“It’s really great to see college students willing to give up their time like this,” Dell said.

Even freshmen are involved in the program, including Matthew Shafer. Though he was at first nervous that he wouldn’t have the experience necessary, Shafer quickly grew into a tutoring regular.

“As a freshman, it’s easy for me to work with high school students, since it’s stuff I just learned,” Shafer said. “I’m strongest in math and science, but we do have a lot of students coming in for help in English or Spanish.”

Dell said the student volunteers come from a mix of backgrounds and majors, allowing them to help with almost any subject. If a student needs more in-depth tutoring, Dell said she can help arrange a paid tutor from among the Harding honors students.

Harding senior Cody Rogers has been tutoring regularly for the past two years. As a physics major, he spends most of the time helping students with math, typically rotating among a few students each session.

“Learning how to stay in control of the session, especially if you have a few distracted high school kids in the same room, was an adjustment,” Rogers said.

The tutoring can be more than just homework help for volunteers and students. Rogers also sees the time as a chance to mentor.

“It’s a break from school and home life,” Rogers said. “We’ve had some deeper conversations with the kids about things they might be dealing with in their lives.”

Dell said she rarely has a problem finding enough tutors for the afternoon sessions. The tutors seem to get just as much out of the program as their students.

“I always hear a lot of laughing,” Dell said. “They’re making sure the kids are

staying on track with their school work, but it’s also about

building a relationship with the students.”

Those interested in the free tutoring sessions can contact the Honors House at (501) 279-4056 for information on openings this fall.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

Staff Writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at 501-399-3688 or emily@syncweekly.com.

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