Tutoring program seeks volunteers to help students achieve goals

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 28, 2015

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MACOMB COUNTY — Students need tutors in various schools to complete coursework, and Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan is trying to accelerate that process.

The organization’s mission values, as stated on its website, include providing quality and professional services that help mobilize hope in surrounding communities.

And with schools currently in full swing, Catholic Charities of Southeast Michigan, or CCSEM, is looking for volunteers 55 years and older to help schools that have students in need of academic aid.

“Volunteering is a very rewarding experience,” Herschell Masten, director of the Older Adults Division of CCSEM, said in a press release. “RSVP volunteers serving in schools often tell us how much they look forward to their time with the students.”

RSVP volunteers refers to the estimated 600 volunteers in Macomb and Oakland counties who help out in different community settings, such as in zoos and hospitals. The number of tutoring volunteers, however, is currently around 50.

All volunteers have to be seniors in nonprofit settings.

Nicole Ouellette, program manager of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program at CCSEM, said that while the RSVP program operated out of Macomb and Oakland counties, the agency itself operates out of six counties.

All seniors have to provide a minimum of four hours of service per month, but it always depends on the school district in which they tutor. Ouellette usually helps assign a few hours per week and find a school near a person’s home.

Volunteers are vetted through an application process that includes minimal paperwork and a criminal background check — which consists of paper filing and not fingerprints. Hopeful volunteers contact Ouellette and complete the first step of the application, and once that is finished a school district is sought out.

CCSEM has agreements with different schools, and sending volunteers depends on whether the schools want assistance. An established relationship usually exists between the two entities already.

Students of all ages receive tutoring, and most volunteers help elementary students in the K-6 range. Some volunteers even help with adult literacy in conjunction with Macomb Literacy Partners.

“Macomb County — that’s the one we’re really trying to build,” Ouellette said. “(Tutors) help students with reading and math, assisting students that might need a little more help. Sometimes they work with individuals or in groups.

CCSEM provides extra orientation on what type of classroom they will set volunteers up in, and many volunteers are new and have never done it before.

“That doesn’t matter, as we will find something suitable for everyone,” Ouellette said.

Some schools reach out, and sometimes it’s reversed because of volunteer size. Interest depends on a particular area and its school districts.

For example, Utica Community Schools is the biggest school district CCSEM works with, and there is a high concentration of students who speak English as their second language.

“Most of (the volunteers) say that it makes them feel good knowing that they’re helping somebody who really needs it,” Ouellette said. “A lot of our people say they have extra time and feel that because they’re retired they want to give back to (the) community, and that they enjoy working with kids. Most of them have a real passion for it.

“We are really promoting the program because it’s a big focus and a lot of the schools are having challenges with new requirements, and staff is kind of stretched at the schools.”

CCSEM is currently looking for at least 20 new volunteers, mostly in the Macomb County area. Those interested can contact Ouellette at (248) 559-1147, ext. 3957, or at ouelletten@ccsem.org.

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