The Church supporting the mentoring program of Action Centered Tutoring Services for elementary school students desiring academic and personal guidance.

Action Centered Tutoring Opens Ninth Site In Springfield

Kathryn Roy | Special to The Republican By Kathryn Roy | Special to The Republican

on December 10, 2014 at 6:06 AM, updated December 10, 2014 at 6:15 AM

Action Centered Tutoring Services, a Springfield-based tutoring service, is in its 28th year of offering free tutoring services to elementary-school children. Here, tutor Lynn Fuller Ramsay is shown with one of her students.

SPRINGFIELD - Action Centered Tutoring Services, a free, one-on-one tutoring service offered at various sites across the city, has opened a ninth site. The service, which includes a faith-based segment, is free to eligible elementary school students. The newest site is the J.C. Williams Community Center on Florence Street in the Six Corners neighborhood.

“There were about eight to 10 kids from Brookings School who the school identified as good candidates, but they didn’t have transportation,” to the after-school program at the J.C. Williams Community Center, said Burt Hansen, director of ACTS Tutoring. “Before I went to meet with (the people at the community center), their board already voted to approve (having) the program (on site).”

That area of the city was hard hit by the tornado a few years ago and is a low income area.

“A church was destroyed in that area,” Hansen said. “They built the community center first, and now they’re going to build a church with a health center and provide all these services to the neighborhood, so they’re very energetic about it.”

Action Centered Tutoring Services

Most of the tutoring is held in churches, with a couple in community centers. Each site hosts students once a week for two hours. During each session, there is a snack time, followed by an hour to an hour and 15 minutes of tutoring time. There is one tutor for every student.

“We do provide some help with homework, but we’re not a homework club,” Hansen said. “We can help if they don’t understand the homework or they’re working on a project, but what we really focus on is basic skills – reading, arithmetic, (and) writing.”

The last half hour is “club time,” where the faith-based aspect comes in. “We read Bible stories and engage children in conversation,” Hansen said. “We want to get their take on it. We’re not trying to evangelize; we’re not trying to sign anyone up for any particular church, but we’re trying to improve their Bible literacy and teach them some values.” For example, Hansen said, they will use Bible verses to talk about problems which the children may be facing, such as someone being mean or mistreating them, and how they should respond. Children have the choice to opt out of “club time.”

Hansen said the students develop strong relationships with their tutors, who are often retired teachers and other professionals. There are also some high school students and college students. “That mentoring piece is probably as important, maybe more important, than the tutoring piece,” he said. “Having that relationship with the adult really helps with their motivation (and) their attitude about school.”

Tutor Jackie Blount has been supervising a volunteer site for five years. “We quickly become a family,” Blount said of the tutors and children. “The students really enjoy their tutors and know that they are loved. Although we meet only once a week, the one-to-one interaction intensifies the learning benefits. I personally enjoy watching relationships develop between tutor and student.”

Action Centered Tutoring Services is in most neighborhoods of the city, except for the North End. Hansen said they continue to look at expanding the program. “The need is pretty big,” Hansen said. “The schools I am in touch with – they can pretty easily find eight to 10 kids and there are 33 schools, so we could be looking at 300 kids.” The program currently has a capacity of 90 students total throughout its nine sites. There are about 65 students and 65 volunteer tutors participating in the program right now. There are openings currently at Bethesda Lutheran Church, Trinity Lutheran and the Allen Park Community Room, which all offer their programs on Tuesdays.

Most of the programs run from 3:30 to 5:30 or 4 to 6 p.m. “About half the time, the parent or guardian brings the child, and in some cases, kids can walk over from school, with an escort,” Hansen said. “We’re trying to be more strategic about working with schools to find the kids that just need a little push – the ones we can really make a difference with.” The program is always in need of volunteer tutors, who need no special training. There is an application process and a background check conducted on each potential volunteer. To learn more, call (413) 731-9810 or go online to acts86.org. © 2016 masslive.com. All rights reserved.

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