Friday, April 24, 2009

Wicker Park Learning Center

On Tuesday, Chris Warren and I made our way up to the Avondale neighborhood to visit Wicker Park Learning Center. Kathy Anderson (pictured left, speaking at our November Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference at the Field Museum) has been at the helm of this tutoring and mentoring program for about 20 years and while the location has changed (Wicker Park Learning Center was once in Wicker Park, but has been located in Avondale for the past 15 years), the dedication to helping individuals from kindergarten through adulthood has not.

Wicker Park Learning Center actually employs paid tutors, but is free of charge to the people it tutors. As I mentioned earlier, they are headquartered in Avondale, at the Concordia Center,
where homework help is offered from 3-6pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 3-8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A good majority of the students who come for homework help at the center at 3300 N. Whipple, live in the neighborhood and go to the school just down the street. However, Wicker Park Learning Center is willing to have their tutors go to other neighborhoods if students need a tutor and are unable to travel to Avondale. In fact, students can meet with tutors from Wicker Park Learning Center at their homes, at libraries, community centers, and at their schools. Overall, about 15 kids come to the center on N. Whipple, 30 students meet with tutors at Namaste Charter School on the South Side, 5 kids meet at a Chicago-area Catholic School, 10 students meet at park district sites, and then there are those whose tutors come to their homes or local libraries.

Whenever Chris and I visit programs, we always ask them what their greatest challenges are. With these tough economic times, the issue of funding always comes up. Normally ever summer, Wicker Park Learning Center hosts a camp where students have a safe place to go during the summer, while their parents work. However, they are unsure if they will be able to offer the comprehensive recreation and supplementary tutoring program this summer as they did before.

Ms. Anderson also says that she would like to recruit volunteers to actually do some of the tutoring as well. We gave her some ideas of using websites such as Idealist and Volunteer Match
and possibly working with volunteer student groups at nearby universities such as Northeastern Illinois and North Park University. This is why we go out and visit these programs - to find out more about them, but to also see if they need help with anything.

Thank you Kathy Anderson for sitting down and talking to us about Wicker Park Learning Center. We can't wait to hear your ideas about student recruitment on the panel at the May Tutor/Mentor Leadership and Networking Conference.

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