Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
This Spring Break, Dare2Soar is offering its first “Alternative Spring Break Program” for students to stay on campus and tutor children in Chester. The program is an attempt not only to continue students’ tutoring service in Chester, but also to develop mentor-student relationships and offer students an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Chester community.
Dare2Soar is an existing program that facilitates students from Swarthmore tutoring students in Chester. According to Dare2Soar Lead co-Coordinator Lisa Sendrow ’13, this is crucial.
“People go into Chester not understanding how different it is from other districts,” she said. The Spring Break program, more than a one-time exposure like “Chester 101,” is designed to “make students more aware of the problems and how we can help these children succeed,” Sendrow said.
For Christina Keller ’14, one of the Dare2Soar Site Coordinators and prospective Spring Break program participant, these are all tangible changes the Spring Break program will provide that will “last longer than the week we’re there.”
For Keller, the most important reason to participate in the Alternative Spring Break is “getting to be there for the whole week and be with the students” and maintaining Swarthmore’s presence in Chester for the children. Chester students are in school for much longer than Swarthmore students and breaks don’t always coincide.
Eight students will be accepted to this completely funded, four-day program. Regular Dare2Soar tutors will have the opportunity to experience Chester from a new perspective, as well as continue to benefit children through their mentorship and tutoring.
The Spring Break program will also produce a mentor training manual for the beginning of the next semester, with basic guidelines in tutoring.
Dare2Soar’s continued involvement this spring is particularly important in light of recent cuts in the Chester Upland school district’s budget. “This Spring Break coincides with events in Chester that could use extra education and help, like the education crisis,” Keller said. This semester could be an optimal time to get involved: “[w]ith the budget cuts, Dare2Soar is even more significant in the lives of the children,” Sendrow said.
Improving mentorship and tutoring is a vital part of the Spring Break program. “I hope it will lead to more confidence in [Swarthmore students] as mentors, let them see the good they can do even in a week, [and] see the good Dare2Soar can bring so long as we have people dedicated to what they’re doing,” St. Julian said. According to Keller, the experience will give Swatties a chance to apply their training and education to practice. Tutors will also learn things they might not have been exposed to in the normal course of Dare2Soar, such as English as a Second Language (ESL), Special Education or high school tutoring.
The Alternative Spring Break will also have positive ramifications for the Dare2Soar program itself.
“We’re hoping to use these skills to make Dare2Soar a better program,” Sendrow said.
The participants in the Spring Break program will use their acquired knowledge and skills not only to create curricula for Dare2Soar in the future, but also to mentor and train new tutors next fall. In this way, the Spring Break program will help improve the sustainability of the program, St. Julian wrote in an email to current Dare2Soar tutors. According to Keller, it will add “fresh ideas” and “a little extra life” to the existing program.
The Spring Break program will last from March 5 through March 9, with mornings spent at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility and afternoons spent in Chester. Monday and Tuesday mornings will consist of training sessions (given by the Chester Education Foundation) in mentoring and tutoring. On Wednesday afternoon, Swarthmore students will create maps of Chester with the children, which they will use on Thursday afternoon to complete a scavenger hunt. This aspect is important, St. Julian said, because it “gives Swarthmore students a chance to see Chester,… to see how big Chester is, and diverse culturally.”
Students will tutor at Chester Eastside Ministries, God’s House of Glory, Thomas M. Thomas Church, and Community Action Agency of Delaware County (CAADC).
Due to limited funding, only eight students will be accepted to participate in the program this spring. However, both St. Julian and Sendrow said that they are hoping to expand the program in the future, starting next Fall Break. Keller said she would like to see the program opened to other student groups, and perhaps develop into an externship/fellowship program with varied possibilities for students who want to stay on campus and work in Chester over Spring Break.
In any case, “[i]t most definitely will continue, even if I have to do it from grad school,” St. Julian said. The Spring Break program is completely student run, with funding from the Swarthmore Foundation Grant. Meals and transportation are provided; students will continue to live on campus.
Applications will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis through Friday, Feb. 3, at 5:00 pm. All students currently involved with Dare2Soar are encouraged to apply.