GPC Brings Service-Learning to Hillside Elementary

Contact: roger barnes
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Author: Roger Barnes   

With a little help from Georgia Perimeter College Alpharetta Center students, nine second-grade students at Hillside Elementary School, who were in need of reading support, are now a little more excited about the adventures they find in books. The young readers get support and encouragement each week from their GPC tutors.

“This is a thing that helps us learn and it’s fun.” said Hillside second-grader, Zekhi McGregor, who said he was excited to work with his tutor, GPC student Robert Nash. “I’m glad he’s finally here.”

McGregor’s classmate, Jonathan Yglesia, also had kind words to say about his tutor Matt Neuenschwander.

“He’s OK,” Yglesia said. “He helps me become a better reader. Now I’m reading bigger books. I have a 222-page book at home and I’m halfway finished it.”

As part of a service-learning project at the college, every Friday nine students from GPC travel to Hillside Elementary in Roswell to tutor the second graders. The GPC students are also taking courses to improve their own college level reading at the Alpharetta Center.

“Research has shown that when you help other people learn something, you improve that skill for yourself,” said GPC associate professor of English and Reading Maryann Errico. “The strategies our students teach the elementary students can be applied to higher-level reading.”

The reading project is part of a GPC service-learning initiative that encourages Georgia Perimeter students to engage their community by offering their time and the skills they are developing in class to improve the quality of life locally. The college students then return to the classroom to share their experiences and are graded on their work.

“I wanted to provide our GPC students with an opportunity to develop leadership skills and refine career goals while giving back to the community,” said Audrey Bennett, GPC reading instructor who developed the project with Hillside Elementary. Bennett gave her students the option of doing lab work or tutoring.

“My goals were for GPC students to become ‘Readers to Leaders,’” Bennett said. “As leaders in achievement, our students will not only push the struggling readers to higher achievement, but in turn will themselves develop the habit of applying the reading and study strategies on a higher reading level. Simply put, as our GPC students teach and encourage young struggling readers, the positive effects will be for both the elementary students and for our tutors.”

Bennett requires the students to complete a minimum of 10 hours of service as a reading tutor. The tutors help the second-graders master specific reading strategies while working to improve their attitude towards reading. The tutors receive training and practice on each strategy during class and must follow set guidelines of conduct to meet the requirement.

The tutors and their students participated in the reading initiative established by Jumpstart’s Read for the Record 2010. This is a campaign that brings children and adults together to read the same book, on the same day, in homes and communities around the world. Jumpstart is designed to help prepare children for success in school life.
Hillside Elementary School Principal, Lori Fanning is pleased with the success of the program and the progress her students are making.

“This program has been really great,” said Fanning. “It helps the kids to have a relationship with another adult. It’s somebody else to love our children. It’s about relationships and they have the chance to work with college students and see college in their future. Our students are so excited about this and it’s helping improve our reading scores.”

The GPC students are also having fun.
“From the first day I tutored, it made me feel great,” said Brittany Smith, a student/tutor in the program. “Just watching them grow and knowing you’re helping them improve is the biggest thing. We create a bond with them because we’re young, but they look up to us because we’re college students.”

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Georgia Perimeter College, the third largest institution of the University System of Georgia, serves more than 25,000 students through four campuses and several sites in metro Atlanta. For additional information, visit