Homework program gets top marks
Lowering the high school drop-out rate has been an issue for several years now, in Quebec, proving to be a challenge particularly in some rural and isolated communities. The town of Stanstead has had an impressive service in place since last September
to help its youth succeed in school and, after just a few short months, that’s exactly what it’s doing!
“Phelps Helps” is an after school tutoring program for Alexander Galt High School students, run by Stanstead newcomer and a teacher herself, Katie Lowry, and a large, volunteer team of dedicated Stanstead College students and local educators. I visited Phelps Helps last Thursday to meet with the students in the program and their tutors, and was surprised to find, rather than a subdued, library-like environment, a lively place with keen volunteers, students who arrive ready to work, and lots of healthy snacks and juice to nourish all those young brains.
“This program aims not only to help the students with their homework, but to also enrich the educational experience of local youth,” explained Ms. Lowry about Phelps Helps. “Our students now seem to understand the value of education. They talk about school here, what they like and don’t like, and now they’re coming in and telling us their grades; in the beginning some didn’t want to talk about their grades. Some of the kids were really surprised with their mid-term results. What’s so amazing about these students is that they choose to be here; they’re taking responsibility for their education.”
“I like the fact that you can bring your grades up a lot by coming here,” said Jasmine Wood who was studying science with her tutor. “It’s easier to study here; I’m more focused and I get my homework done faster. All of my marks have gone up,” she added.
Level two student Hannah Wallace was having a lot of trouble in math before joining the program. “Here my tutors explained the math in a way that I could understand. My math mark went from 30 to 86,” she said with pride. “It’s a great program: I spend time with friends, I’m doing better in everything, and it’s nice knowing people really care. I used to hate school but, now that I’m doing better, I don’t hate school so much. I’m happier there and I have more friends.”
Aaron Mac Leod was attending the homework program for the first time, last Thursday, arriving without prior notice but welcomed heartily. “The school sent out a paper about the program and my parents saw it and told me to go,” admitted Aaron who was quickly assigned a tutor and was working on a French test with him.
“Alesha was our first member and came here alone for the first two weeks,” said Ms. Lowry about Alesha Grimes. “It gives me something to do after school. Before I came here my math marks were not good, but the math marks went up. That’s important because I want to play rugby again this year and I need good marks for that. When I used to do my schoolwork at home, if I didn’t know the answer to something I would just give up; here I can get the answer,” commented Alesha.
One of the students attending Phelps Helps, Louise Lachance-Harrison, who couldn’t attend the Thursday session but knew I would be there, wrote me a page-long letter expressing her appreciation for the after-school program. “More students should take advantage of this program; it’s a good source for helping students with their education. I am currently a senior and would have liked to have done this in years past. My marks have gone up greatly; my math marks alone are currently in the 90’s. The tutors are very generous to be willing to give up their time to help us,” she wrote.
Stanstead College student Alexandra Place has been a tutor with the program since September. “Coming here to tutor other students helps us with our schoolwork too, getting us to reflect on stuff that we’ve already learnt,” she commented. “It’s so nice to see all the students having so much success,” said Lisa Smith, a volunteer teacher in the program.
Asked about the feedback that she has received, Ms. Lowry said: “I’m in contact with all of the students’ teachers; two of our students have increased their math marks by 50%! The students still come here even when they don’t have homework and they do extra work. Two of our grade eleven students are now talking about and planning to go to Cegep.”
“I enjoy everything about this program,” Katie continued. “It’s great to have this social space for doing homework and it’s really rewarding to provide those little extras and then see a student come in, ecstatic that they passed a math exam. I just joined the Stanstead community, moving here in August. It’s a nice opportunity to take part in kid’s lives and in the community. I’m also grateful to the parents who come to pick up their kids; they make it possible for their kids to come. There is now a new bus stop right here after school, and that is also a huge help.”
The Phelps Helps after school program runs every Monday and Thursday evening, from 4:30 to 6:00 pm, in the Stanstead Culture and Recreation Centre at 10 Phelps Street. The service is free and there is room for more Alexander Galt high school students. Anyone interested can just stop in on Monday or Thursday or call the Centre at 819 704-0660.
Katie Lowry has organized an after-school program that’s getting results.
The students and tutors at Phelps Helps last Thursday were (l. to r. sitting) Julian Charest, Aaron MacLeod, Alexis Routhier, Alexandra Place, Hannah Wallace and Noemie Abdo. Standing (l. to r.) were Katie Lowry, Fatou Diagana, Victoria Mac Isaac, Alesha Grimes, Jasmine Wood, Paul Gella, Andrew Norris and Lisa Smith.