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Summer tutoring can help kids stay sharp academically

July 18, 2012
By JACKIE STARK - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - School age children across the country typically spend the first few weeks of the new school year relearning everything they forgot over the summertime.

And for students who may already be lagging behind their peers in core subjects, those few weeks can be crucial in setting up a foundation for the rest of the year.

One way to combat that unintended memory loss - and to insure children continue to retain information at a high level during the school year - is to provide students with tutors.

Article Photos

Lake Superior Village Youth and Family Center staff member Troy Graham helps, clockwise from left, Jillian Beaudry, Logan Holm and Alijah Taylor with their homework. (Photo courtesy of Lake Superior Village Youth and Family Center)

That one-on-one time can be invaluable, according to Lisa Burtch, volunteer coordinator for Teaching Family Homes, which provides its youth with an individualized tutoring program.

"All of our youth are at different grade levels, and even in that grade level, some of them move along faster, so when you do the one-on-one, you can track everyday, personally, this is how much they've changed," Burtch said. "Whereas, when you do it in a group, they need more attention."

And beginning next year, Burtch said, TFH will implement a new program to help track the progress of students involved in tutoring.

All TFH tutors are volunteers, with the only qualification being a high school diploma. Each volunteer receives an orientation and is matched up with a student based on similar interests.

Burtch said while the TFH tutoring program focuses specifically on academics, with each student receiving individualized tutoring that hits on certain areas that student may be struggling with, the program branches out as well, to areas beyond the classroom.

"The kids like to call them mentors, because it's not just tutoring academics," Burtch said. "It's really a social thing. It's someone to be a role model for them."

The tutoring sessions are scheduled flexibly, with what's best for the tutor as well as the student. Burtch said she likes to encourage tutors to make lessons as fun as possible for the students.

"Sometimes it's best to do a fun learning activity," she said. "So, we'll do maybe an hour of sitting down, learning, and an hour after of playing a game that involves whatever they just learned."

The Lake Superior Village Youth and Family Center, as a part of Marquette County's YMCA, also offers tutoring to area school children through volunteer tutors.

And many of the tutors involved at the youth and family center are Northern Michigan University education students who work at the center to complete a number of tutoring hours for credit.

YMCA Chief Executive Officer Lisa Coombs-Gerou said the program's positive effects are really beginning to shine, as students who were once tutored at the center are going on to excel as young adults.

"A number of kids from the village were able to go to college this year," Coombs-Gerou said, adding that the program not only positively affects the students, but the tutors as well. "They get to learn some one-on-one skills with teaching."

The program allows the tutors to check up on their students' grades online, as well as to make sure homework is being turned in on time.

Coombs-Gerou said, since the programs inception four years ago, they've seen an impact in area schools.

"We see a big impact in those kids. Kids who were struggling before, getting Cs and Ds are now A and B students," she said.

Volunteers must complete a volunteer form with the YMCA before undergoing a background check based on areas of expertise. Tutors are then matched up with students based on areas of student need and tutor expertise. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact the Y at 227-9622.

Anyone interested in becoming a THF volunteer tutor should contact Burtch by phone at 249-5437 or by email at

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is



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