Wednesday, January 28, 2009

McGaw YMCA Project SOAR

Yesterday, my colleague Chris Warren and I visited the McGaw YMCA in Evanston to find out about all the after-school programs that they have to offer. I was fairly familiar, with their mentoring, Project SOAR, because a good friend of mine started as a mentor there when he was a work-study student at Northwestern University and still mentors the same child. I also had worked with Mary Jon Girard, the Project SOAR Director at our conferences, and knew that the McGaw YMCA after-school programs were very good programs. So, it was great finally getting to visit and observe these programs at work.

We first visited the Foster Reading Center. This program is run by Lisa Matuska, the Reading in Motion Coordinator, a friend of Chris's from Northwestern, and I should also mention, one of our most enthusiastic members of our Northwestern Ning Group. Foster Reading Center is an after-school drop-in center for K-3rd graders. The cost is $20 per month, but that's for 5 days a week, 3 hours a day, so well worth the cost. Anyway, Chris and I jumped into helping a few kids with their homework and finding out what they thought about the program. I also helped Lisa, and an intern from UChicago school of social work, Edie, how they can use Tutor/Mentor Connection to their advantage, especially pointing out the Homework Help Links.

We then went back to the McGaw YMCA, and learned about all the different program that they have to offer. First off, was the one-on-one tutoring program for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. This is offered to all children who have a YMCA membership.

There is also the Project SOAR mentoring program. I should not that both the Foster Reading Center and the Project SOAR mentoring program make great use of the community resources that Evanston offers. Mary Jon has teamed up with the work-study program at Northwestern University so that NU students who qualify for work-study have the opportunity to be tutors or mentors. This is a great example of what Tutor/Mentor Connection promotes all the time: the idea that universities and tutoring and mentoring programs should team up and help each other in a variety of ways.

Another great example that McGaw YMCA Youth Programs can show other programs, is creating a partnership with other tutoring and mentoring programs. Notably, Project SOAR has teamed up with Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, another mentoring program, to help find community members in Evanston who can be mentors for children who are the most at need in Evanston. This is an example of different programs who offer different strengths can team up with each other and help each other in a variety of ways.

So, thank you to Mary Jon Girard and Lisa Matuska for kindly showing us around their programs. I was so impressed with all the good work they are doing and hope that they can help us in the future at the Tutor/Mentor Conference and other events by showing people what an outstanding tutoring and mentoring program does.

Also: Photos of the visit on their way! Chris and I realized that we should always bring our cameras to these site visits, but Lisa had a camera and kindly took photos of us helping the kids at the Foster Reading Center with their homework.

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