Living in a family with low income can be difficult for any child, especially if the child wants to be successful in school and in a career. There are many academic support programs for students in the DC area, but if the student comes from an underprivileged family the student won’t have the finances to pay for that support. That is why Northstar Tutoring provides tutors who will help these kids achieve academic success, as well as be there for them as a mentor.
Located at the Latin American Youth Center in Columbia Heights, Northstar offers free one-on-one tutoring to underprivileged kids from Pre-K through 12th grade. When students arrive, they receive help with their homework and are given folders with math and reading worksheets. At the end of the day, based on what subjects the students need improvement in, the tutors indicate what materials the student needs in the folder for the next week.
Tutoring sessions occur for an hour and a half from 6:30pm to 8:00pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 85% of the kids who come to the tutoring sessions attend on both days, Director of Northstar Jen Townsend said. However, some tutors can only come once a week, so a student could receive help from two different people.
Tutors at Northstar also act as mentors for the kids. Being a mentor for a student makes the tutoring sessions easier because both the mentor and the student get to learn about each other and figure out how to work efficiently together. It helps with student attendance to the sessions as well.
“The more they get to know each other, the more they don’t want to let each other down by not showing up,” Townsend said.
One of the responsibilities that comes with mentoring is taking the student on a daytrip once every month, visiting places like museums on the National Mall, the movies, or Nationals Park. The tutors plan this daytrip so it fits into their schedules.
Another part of being a mentor is being involved with the student’s life. Some of the students’ parents do not speak English, so the tutors will go to school meetings or doctor appointments with the parents.
Kellsie and Minerva, two of the students at Northstar Tutoring, said the tutors make it easier for them to understand their homework and the practice materials given to them. They get to know the tutors better after working with them every week and going with them on the daytrips. They both agreed if they were to ever participate in a tutoring program at their schools, they wouldn’t get the same experience as they did at Northstar because they have formed special bonds the tutors there.
Northstar provides a computer lab and library at their facility, which are necessary for the students’ educations, Townsend said. Some kids don’t have access to computers and many are given assignments that require the Internet or other computer programs. The library provides books to kids who are excited about reading but don’t have books at home.
Tutoring at Northstar gets people involved with the DC community and young students’ education in the district.
“The kids are desperate for someone to guide them and make a big impact on their lives,” Townsend said. “You will never regret helping out a kid in need.”
In the future, Townsend hopes to open up more locations, especially in Southeast. She doesn’t want to increase the variety of programs that Northstar offers, but wants to broaden the scope of what they are already doing, which is tutoring and mentoring.
To learn more about Northstar Tutoring, visit northstartutoring.org.
If you are interested in volunteering, you can fill out the online sign-up form.