Making a Connection

We often hear people say “I would like to get involved in the community, but I just do not have time.” For some, this statement is an easy out because they do not really want to get involved. For others, this statement might be true. I have a hard time believing it however. We all make time for things that are important to us. If you want to go shopping, you will make time. If you want to play golf on a Saturday you will work your calendar and make the time. Why can’t this be done when thinking about community involvement? It can be. We just have to make volunteerism a priority. As a business leader, I made every attempt to make volunteer opportunities available to my employees during the work day.  This would allow those individuals who felt like they didn’t have time outside of work to get involved.  The Fort Wayne community to blessed to have many companies and churches who have done the same thing.  Many of these organizations have made a commitment to giving back by bringing those they serve to their place of work.  This makes the volunteer experience just a little bit easier and more convenient.  These businesses are Study Connection tutor sites.

Study Connection was founded in 1989 by a Fort Wayne businessman.  The program was adopted a few years later by Fort Wayne Community Schools and still thrives today.  The business/education partnership has been very successful in developing students and tutors.   Students who have been identified by teachers as needing extra help are paired with a community tutor.  The students are bussed one day a week to a workplace where the tutor and student spend one hour together.  The tutor spends quality one-on-one time with the student working on homework while developing study skills.  One hour a week of focused time with a child makes a huge impact.  The students, tutors, and companies that participate all reap rewards.

Do It Best Corporation is one of the companies in our area that strongly supports the Study Connection program.  I had the opportunity to volunteer some time with them during their weekly study session.  At 3:45 pm the bus arrived with the students.  We escorted them into the cafe where they met their tutor.  I was paired with a first grade student who has struggled with previous tutors.  I was actually told that she was almost removed from the group because of her lack of effort.  The tutor basically had given up on her and did not want to continue.  We sat down and worked on her homework.  She had forgotten her math homework so we had to make copies of another student’s sheet.  There was no issue with her effort.  She worked hard to complete the two worksheets and I worked hard to help her understand it.  I also made an effort to make her laugh, smile, and enjoy the time.  She has a million dollar smile that others need to see.  After math, we read two books.  She struggled to read the words so we focused on breaking them down and sounding them out.  Again, I was pleased with her effort.  Before I knew it the hour had flown by and it was time to clean up.

This one-on-one time between volunteer and student is about more than just homework.  Relationships are built and trust is earned.  During our time together Ariana opened up and shared information about her family.  She and her mother live with her aunt.  They do not have a bed so they sleep on the floor.  Her newborn cousin keeps her up at night which makes her tired during the day.  She has 5 or 6 siblings, all with different mothers.  Her father lives out of town and she does not see him often.  This young girl is facing many life challenges.  Each of which potentially play a role in her inability to focus at school and during her Study Connection session.  Children from low-income families need extra support to succeed.  The employees at Do It Best and the Study Connection staff fully understand how to meet the needs of these students.

As a mentor I have witnessed the challenges that young people face in today’s world.  School is not always a top priority for them.  This lack of focus and effort takes them down a road of low performance, discouragement, and despair.  It is important that we, as a community, work to teach them about the importance of school.  Study Connection makes these students a priority and the results prove the impact the program has on them.  Statistics show that the grades of those enrolled in Study Connection are improving.  This record of performance has led to national recognition for the organization.  The students of Fort Wayne Community Schools are lucky to have this program available for them.  We, as business leaders and community members, are blessed as well.  It gives us a chance to get involved, impact our youth, and make our community a better place.  All we have to do is give up one hour a week.  I can do that.  You can too.  Take this opportunity to act, get involved, and make a connection!

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