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Teens take time to tutor

Jul 28, 2017 10:35AM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Teens work one-on-one with young readers. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

Second-graders at two West Jordan elementary schools get the benefits of older siblings without actually having them. 

Teens in the Latinos in Action class at Joel P. Jensen Middle School come to their schools every Monday to read with the students. Tutors are paired with second-grade buddies to work on sight words and reading fluency. Rebecca Perez-Vidal, LIA president, said she feels like the kids become like little brothers and sisters to the tutors.

“It’s a little thing to read with kids but they see it as a lot,” said Perez-Vidal. She said the kids benefit from having someone who cares about their progress. Tutors are able to spend 15–20 minutes with each student every week.

Oquirrh Elementary second-grade teacher Mandy Prows said the tutors listen to her students read and then discuss the story with them, practicing comprehension and language skills. 

“Those extra minutes spent reading really add up and affect their reading skills,” she said. “They love that an older kid is willing to listen to them and help them. They feel like it’s this really special thing they get to do.”

April Aguado, a ninth-grade tutor, worked with a student struggling with reading and was discouraged.

“By the end of the year, the kid could read the whole list,” she said enthusiastically.

Joselyne Rangel, an eighth-grader, said these kids sometimes just need someone they can talk about school and home life with. 

“You don’t know what is going on at home for them, and you can be more than just a tutor; you can be a friend for them,” she said. She worked with a student who had a poor attitude about reading. She realized she had to make a connection and earn his trust. Once they became friends, he was willing to practice reading skills during their time together. 

“I feel like I really build a connection with the kids that I tutor,” said ninth-grade tutor Nayeli Sandoval. “It really helps with their social skills because we just really connect with them and they can confide in us.”

LIA tutors are an example to younger kids—especially Latino students, said ninth-grader Jayleen Ivett-Sandoval.

“I want to show the kids they don’t have to be the Latino stereotype where every Latino is dumb or every Latino is gonna drop out,” said Ivett-Sandoval. “I definitely want to be an example for them and for them to see you don’t have to go that way; there is another way and its way better.” 

Karen Gorringe, principal at Terra Linda Elementary, said one of her students was having behavioral problems. When he saw his older brother in his role as a tutor to the kids at school, his behavior improved. She is impressed with those who serve her students each week.

“They are role models that show that academics matter,” said Gorringe.

Many of the tutors understand where their students are coming from. Analia Lentz and Josve Pantoja admitted they didn’t like reading when they were second-graders. Tutors helped them improve their reading skills and attitudes so now they can do the same for others.

Prows said the tutors were a great help with a Spanish-speaking student who refused to speak to anyone.

“These teenagers were able to work with that student and within minutes had them talking so fast, the teenager was having a hard time keeping up,” she said. 

The tutor was able to relay important information about the student. 

“Things got better really fast for everyone,” Prows said. “That student just loved that an older kid wanted to know about them and was able to explain how school worked and how great it could be. It was a huge help.”

LIA tutors work with students at both Terra Linda Elementary and Oquirrh Elementary. This is just one of the service activities their group participates in each year.

“Our Latino community loves to give back and are generous people,” said Perez-Vidal. “We hope to be an example to kids so they don’t get lost and just want to give up on school.” 

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