By Maggie Needham, Academic Coordinator and Lead Counselor
Twice a week, when our B-READY elementary schoolers get picked up at 6:00pm, St. Stephen’s offers Academic Nights, a space for teens and middle schoolers to spend time on their homework with staff members and volunteer tutors.
Many of our all-star volunteers during Academic Nights come from the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). JCRC’s ReachOut! program connects young Jewish professionals who want to get involved in social justice issues to organizations like St. Stephen’s Youth Programs, and they have made a huge impact on our Academic Nights.
Since January, we’ve been implementing a new system for our JCRC volunteers to work with our middle schoolers during Academic Nights. Rather than having the volunteers be available to any students who want help, we have paired up each of our JCRC volunteers with a specific group of three or four middle schoolers who regularly attend Academic Nights.
This system allows students and volunteers to build ongoing relationships from one week to the next and creates continuity of support. The middle schoolers can now expect the same volunteer to be there, each week, to check up on them and their homework. This consistency helps to hold both our students and our volunteers accountable to each other. It also gives the students a key, expected person they can turn to every week for help.
We are grateful for our partnership with JCRC and can already see how our students and volunteers are growing during Academic Nights!