Dwight Hall puts focus on tutoring

With a forthcoming additional student staff position and a new program this semester building long-term relationships with local school children, Dwight Hall is increasing its focus on community outreach through its Education Network.

The Dwight Hall Academic Mentoring Program at Yale, which pairs students with middle school-age children at Wexler-Grant Community School, completed its last day of the semester Wednesday. The program holds a unique place among Dwight Hall tutoring opportunities due to its focus on long-term commitment, Program Director Johnny Scafidi ’01 said. Its debut also comes at a time when the service umbrella organization’s Education Network — which assesses the effectiveness of such Dwight Hall programs — is preparing to undergo several structural changes.

A new student staff member, whose sole responsibility will be to coordinate the Education Network, will join the existing staff of Dwight Hall next semester. Peter Fishman ’06, coordinator of the Public School Intern program, said he hopes the new staffer will help the current interns improve communication with the schools and the district.

PALS Tutoring and Mentoring member Josh Goodstein ’07 said the organization currently lacks the necessary contact between different tutoring groups.

“If there were better open communication, it would be easier for tutors and students to find the right program for them, and we could better make sure the overall goals of Dwight Hall were met,” he said.

Scafidi also said he hopes for increased communication with schools and with the volunteers themselves.

“One of the goals of the Education Network is to really serve the servers,” he said. “They need to continue to develop ways that groups can communicate with each other.”

Goodstein said he has seen increased commitment to the program by both tutors and students, but he said student progress is not monitored consistently enough.

Dwight Hall sometimes lags on communication with individual tutors because of its heavy reliance on group coordinators rather than central administration, Scafidi said. Because Dwight Hall is a large umbrella organization, he said, some communication problems are to be expected.

“Part of it is just an awareness issue,” Scafidi said. “Part of it is that we simply need to market ourselves better to the volunteers. … There will always be room for continued improvement.”

Still, DHAMPY mentor Molly Brett ’08 said such progress is born of a commitment that extends beyond tutoring sessions. In addition to tailoring her tutoring sessions to the needs of the two sixth-grade girls she tutors, she has maintained e-mail correspondence with the girls during breaks, and said they once tried to teach her their hip-hop dance moves — unsuccessfully.

“In a three-year program, there’s much more incentive to form a mentoring relationship that transcends academics,” Brett said. “Plus, it’s taken me much of this year to figure out which strategies really work well with my students.”

Brad Broadhead ’08, another DHAMPY mentor, said the program’s true potential lies in preparing students to handle the transitions to high school and beyond.

“I don’t focus just on academics with my students,” he said. “I try to give them real-life examples of what they are learning so that they can see that I’m not simply bullying them into humoring me.”

Sam Israel ’07, who works as a tutor at the New Haven Reads Book Bank, said he first found his tutoring job through Dwight Hall, but has not had much contact with the organization since then. He said he would like to see more outreach to upperclassmen, which might encourage more older Yalies to get involved in their community.

“Most of my friends didn’t know where they could go to get information on tutoring,” he said. “There’s a lot more information out there for freshmen.”

Scafidi said about half of Dwight Hall’s approximately 70 member groups provide educational services to their communities, reaching about 14,000 people.

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