God Calls …
Volunteer Tutors from St. James Looking to Expand Program at The Grove Housing Community
By Lynne Conner, Observer Correspondent
August 24, 2023
Students from The Grove at Keith Creek housing community have an after-school incentive this fall to make homework more tolerable:  the help and support of volunteers from St. James Parish, Rockford.
Mary Connelly, Teresa Moore, Peggy Pfau and Sara Wykes are tutors for a post-school enrichment program that started in the fall of 2022. The tutoring program grew out of the Family-to-Family Initiative, which was implemented to help low-income residents of The Grove assimilate into their new community.
“In 2017, 49 families moved from Rockford’s Fairgrounds Housing Complex to The Grove at Keith Creek, a new private housing community. There was some trepidation and fear in the neighborhood about this change, so Father David Beauvais and I started the Family to Family Initiative, which is comprised of teams from 26 churches across Rockford to help Grove families transition in their move,” explained Jim Andrews, a founder of the Family-to-Family Initiative. 
The four current tutors bring individual strengths and talents to the students they help. Moore is a retired special education teacher, Wykes is a former school librarian, Pfau is a retired speech and language pathologist and Connelly has had experience helping in her children’s classrooms. The tutors stress, however, that no educational experience is necessary to help with the after-school program.
“After seeing my grandchildren’s learning struggles during COVID-19, I can understand how kids can get behind in school, and I wanted to lend a hand,” Wykes said. 
“I just feel called to do this,” Pfau said. “I would like to impart my love of reading to the students we work with because reading is truly the cornerstone of all other subjects.”
“In working with The Grove students, I see kids who are unable to comprehend what they read; it’s detrimental to their future,” Wykes said. “I hope to instill confidence in the children I tutor.”
“My background is in math rather than reading, so hopefully, I can impart some math knowledge to the kids,” Moore said. “I want to support kids and families needing extra help during the school year.”
The Grove tutors see their role as not only to assist students but also to establish rapport with their families. “I have a great relationship with one of the older students who I’ve seen blossom this past school year,” Pfau said. “When she needed a book for a school project, helping her choose the book and seeing her excitement over reading about her favorite athlete was wonderful.”
“I feel that we’re all a team. The tutors, the students and the parents all have to work together for success,” Pfau said. “One thing we hope to accomplish this year is to work with our students’ teachers to understand which skills to focus on during tutoring.”
The Grove students meet with their tutors on Monday afternoons at the Rockford Police Department’s New Towne Drive station across from the housing community. “The police officers have been very dedicated to the tutoring program,” Pfau said. “Sometimes the officers tutor our students, which gives the kids positive interaction with the police.”
“We would love to have more tutors to expand the program, have more consistency and have additional weekly meetings,” Wykes said. “This would go a long way in building relationships with the students and their parents.”
The tutors primarily assist The Grove students with homework; however, tutoring can also include finding creative ways to teach basic skills. “We focus on homework, but we have puzzles, flashcards and games that we do with the kids,” Connelly said. “Peggy is great at singing the multiplication tables as a learning tool.”
All the tutors have found their involvement with The Grove students extremely rewarding. “We have found that building relationships with the students, their families, and the other tutors is a wonderful experience,” Pfau said. “We love giving our students extra attention, positive feedback, and structure.”
“Mariah loves the extra attention from her tutors, and the program is helping her grades in school,” said The Grove resident Leticia Brown about her and her daughter Mariah’s involvement in the tutoring program. “She’s become more independent and her math scores are better too.”
Mariah Brown is a sixth grader at Galapagos Charter School in Rockford and loves coming to tutoring because, “Miss Peggy makes the lessons fun for me and cuts hard math problems in half so I can better understand them.”
“We need tutors to help these students become determined learners,” Wykes said. “Each tutor brings their gifts and a unique approach to working with the kids. The more volunteers we have, the more opportunities for success our students receive.”
For more information or to become a tutor, contact Jim Andrews at (815) 558-5000 or email him at jimandrews@gimmetango.com
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