Thursday, March 26, 2009

Erie Neighborhood House

Last night I visited one of the closest programs to us proximity-wise, Erie Neighborhood House. Erie Neighborhood House has four locations throughout the city, but their site at 1347 W. Erie, where their tutoring and mentoring program, TEAM (Tutoring to Educate for Aims and Motivation) is hosted, is its original site. In fact, Erie Neighborhood House has been serving a primarily Latino-based community for 25 years.

Erie Neighborhood House offers many services outside of tutoring and mentoring. These include ESL classes, aide for getting citizenship, a Head Start Program for young children, a language exchange where English and Spanish speakers meet and improve their language skills, technology classes, a food pantry, and much more. Many of the students in the TEAM program, started out in the Head Start program and continued on through high school, which is a wonderful example of a program serving people of all ages in a community.

The TEAM program is a part of the larger Youth Options Unlimited or YOU program. The YOU program includes a drop-in center with homework help that runs Monday through Thursday after school, a service-learning component where students do community service such as picking up trash in their neighborhood. Students also have access to technology classes in the computer labs, sports activities in the gym, and art and writing classes where they can express their creativity.

Every Monday and Wednesday is the TEAM program. 7th-9th meet with their tutor/mentors on Mondays and 10th-12th graders meet with their tutors on Wednesdays. Students are matched up one-on-one with tutor/mentors, who must give a commitment of at least a year. The students who are in advanced math or science are matched up with volunteers who come from an engineering firm in Skokie, to help these kids especially. During the tutoring sessions, students get help with their homework, but can also use the computer labs to research colleges and scholarship opportunities.

One of the issues that every tutoring and mentoring program has is keeping in touch with the alumni. Erie Neighborhood House has volunteers who specifically in charge of keeping in touch with alumni - often over the phone or internet. The only stipulation is that these volunteers and alumni meet face-to-face at least twice a year. This is not only a great way for Erie Neighborhood House to keep track of the students who have graduated, but also gives the students an adult resource to help guide them through the post-high school years.

I had a great time at Erie Neighborhood House and thoroughly enjoyed meeting several of the students and their tutor/mentors. Special thanks to Rebecca Estrada and Joshua Fulcher for hosting me and answering all of my questions!

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