Every Monday and Wednesday afternoon at 5:30 p.m., as many people are eating dinner, classes are starting for six Swarthmore students. At that time, they are in Upper Darby’s public high school, a 20 minute car ride away from Swarthmore, tutoring SAT math, reading and writing, and helping seniors with college applications.
This semester marks the start of Swarthmore students joining Let’s Get Ready, a nonprofit organization started by Harvard University students in 1994. Upper Darby is one of the many sites at which the organization chose to provide free tutoring services. “We specifically target students in underserved areas, like students from low-income families,” said Daniel Moon ’15, one of the co-directors of the program at Upper Darby High School.
Tierra Fowler ’15, the other co-director, believes everyone should have a chance to go to college. As someone raised in Chichester, a town near Upper Darby, Fowler said, “I understand the area and the kind of students who go there. I just really want to help out because a lot of these students do not know about the college application process and most things we all know about.”
Tutoring 35 Upper Darby High School seniors, 12 Swarthmore volunteer coaches are divided into two groups, one for the reading and writing sections, and one for the math section. Each section meets three hours once a week, from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
“This teaching experience is much different from what I have done in the past, which consisted of one to one sessions,” said Angela Oh ’15, the head math coach of the Upper Darby program. “I have learned how important a positive attitude is to the classroom and how… prepared a teacher should be.”
Now with a class of six, Oh teaches the students SAT math topics like algebra and geometry. When teaching, Oh emphasizes the importance of doing practice problems and sometimes asks students to come up to the board and teach the class.
The biggest challenge for Oh at the beginning was understanding her students’ responses. “I want to move on to the next topic only if 100% of the students understand everything, but sometimes, the students will say they understand when they really don’t,” she said. “I had to learn how to ask the right type of questions to see if they understand.”
Oh hopes to see more participants in the program as “I feel we are really able to make a difference in our students’ lives as teachers as well as friendly mentors,” she said.
Each three-hour tutoring session contains three parts: an hour and fifteen minutes of SAT prep, a short snack time and a college prep session which includes guidance on topics ranging from choosing colleges to writing essays, according to Moon. Currently, the group is trying to bring a financial aid information session to the students and to organize a college campus tour.
“There are different types of students within a single school environment,” said Moon. To help the students to their maximum level, Moon believes it’s important to “keep your mind open; you need to have different strategies to help them.” The 35 students took a diagnostic test before class started and students with similar level were put into the same class.
“It’s awesome to see that the students are very dedicated. They are all very intelligent in a lot of different ways,” said Fowler.
Moon shares Fowler’s sentiment. “It really doesn’t matter what social class you come from. Every single student is willing to learn. It’s just some students don’t have the means to get help. It’s really important that you reach out as much as possible to help them.”
“Students walk out of the classroom and say ‘thank you’ to you. That feels great. It feels like you are making a difference,” said Moon.