A few Friday nights ago marked a major milestone for our Maroon Tutor Match (MTM) program - the first family fun night! The event brought together over 110 of the local parents, kids, and university students who participate in MTM at the Logan Center for a couple of hours of appreciation, celebration, and fun. Basically, it was the program’s birthday party - complete w/ balloons!
From my point of view the entire event was a smashing success that was reflective of the kind of successes the program has had all year. Congratulations to MTM’s principal organizers - Akanksha Shah, Jamie Koenig, Ashele Woods, and Ijaaz Jackaria!
For those who don’t know, Maroon Tutor Match is a student-led program within the Neighborhood Schools Program that provides for individualized tutoring to K-12 students out of school at designated community spaces, or at public spaces that are mutually agreed upon. Students are matched to a tutor on a focused subject area (although this sometimes expands over time). Parents contribute some of the total costs, but the rest are covered either through a grant from the Women’s Board or from the Neighborhood Schools Program / Office of Civic Engagement.
The program’s origin is largely the result of a then first-year (Akanksha) strolling into the NSP office and talking to a staffer (Brandi) about an idea for a 1 on 1 tutoring program. We had been recieving phone calls from parents asking for help out of school (beyond what our program was offering) and had independently begun talking about what expanding our scope could look like. Akanksha and Brandi’s conversation led to a fairly quick micro-pilot in the Spring of 2015 to gauge the interest of local parents/students and university students, and to test communication strategies. That experience was positive enough to warrant a year-long pilot in 2015-2016 *. Through that pilot - student leadership roles developed, a community space partnership (w/ UChurch/Blue Gargoyle) was added, and demand from families and university students grew. We wrote a grant to the Women’s Board to support scholarships for families (as well as materials/supplies and program adminstration) which was funded in full.
Fast-forward to this year (2016-2017) - MTM has a full student leadership team. Akanksha and Jamie are co-directors, with Ashleigh and Hijaz leading up the community space tutoring. The final numbers aren’t in yet, but we have on the order of 120 university students participating as tutors and almost 300 families involved. We’re seeing on average a full-letter grade improvement for students in the subject area that was matched. Feedback from local parents and University students has been great. MTM is winding down new signups for this academic year and will be running a small summer program before ramping up for the Fall Quarter.
The program directors have expanded the leadership team for next year, and we’re all excited to see where this goes next! I’m personally learning from this experience and thinking about other opportunities to create more student-led components within the framework of the Neighborhood Schools Program.
Living in the moment though, we had grateful parents thanking us for the program, kids & their tutors playing uno and monopoly together, everyone enjoying a meal from Carbon, and kids getting to be kids and laughing and enjoying themselves (note: the balloon artist was event-specific, not a regular part of the MTM experience).
In every sense of the word, it was a pure expression of our ideals of how you can build community around the process of learning
Shaz Rasul ieads the Neighborhood Schools Program at the University of Chicago for the Office of Civic Engagement.
* Notes:  There's some disagreement whether 2015-2016 was a "year-long pilot" or the official first-year of the program. We'll let the historians decide.