Georgia Southern University senior Brittney Brown enjoys making a difference in the lives of young children. Through W.E. MOVE Tutoring Group, a nonprofit organization started by Georgia Southern staff member S. Marie Williams, Brown can do just that by tutoring and mentoring elementary school students.
“Being a part of W.E. MOVE helped me understand my importance as a young, educated Black woman,” Brown said. “I realized that I can truly make a difference for young children, especially in the education sector, one child at a time. It motivated me to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching.”
Williams didn’t think she’d have to face the challenges of a pandemic when she started W.E. MOVE two summers ago. However, Williams and her Georgia Southern student tutors are gearing up to help elementary students virtually this summer in order to fight summer loss.
“I wanted to give those who were on track a boost and help those who were behind catch up as much as possible in the few weeks of summer vacation,” Williams said. “Two years ago, my son, who was in danger of being retained in the 3rd grade, made enough noticeable progress with tutoring for both principals and teachers to agree that retention was no longer the best option for him. Parents and grandparents were pleased to the point of urging us to continue the service throughout the school year.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, W.E. MOVE served parents and students by offering 2 1/2 hours of tutoring and homework as after-school care at Henderson Library on the Georgia Southern Statesboro Campus. Since March, Williams and the tutors have been working to move the service online.
Brown said her role as a tutor and site coordinator won’t change much with the transition to online learning.
“I’ll be performing the same duties, just virtually: monitoring student-tutor pairs, doing assessments, and creating and maintaining spreadsheets,” she said. “To get prepared for this coming session, I practice using Zoom functions and check out the websites we will be using in advance; just to get comfortable with them, so I can smoothly navigate my way through the session with little hiccups.”
Williams is working to recruit new sponsors for the organization’s needs-based scholarships after the group’s two biggest fundraisers dropped out due to COVID-19-related financial hits. Scholarships have helped cover registration costs for many students as more than half of W.E MOVE participants are considered low-income. She has also been applying for grants in order to be able to offer paid tutor positions and cover all scholarship applications. Sponsors have covered materials for this summer’s tutor boxes and hardware expenses.
“Students will receive a tutor box with four weeks of hands-on activities,” she said. “Thanks to our material and fund donations, tutor boxes will be filled with all the supplies students will need to complete their work and projects. Tutors will be sent a mirror of these materials via mail so they can work to create alongside their students.”
All of W.E. MOVE’s tutors are Georgia Southern student-volunteers from a wide variety of majors. Brown said the nonprofit provides her and her fellow students opportunities to flexibly earn volunteer hours on campus during the summer.
Williams said she has received a lot of support from faculty and staff across campus to help recruit volunteers, who are encouraged to use unconventional methods to keep students engaged.
“Each tutor is constantly urged to be a problem solver and push the creative envelope as far as is necessary to solidify each concept,” Williams said. “Whether it’s using pool noodles to create a multiplication machine or sidewalk chalk to create hopscotch for site words, they’re encouraged to do just that. We mean to be unconventional in our approach to education because our students are unconventional in the way they learn.”
The biggest goal for W.E. MOVE going forward is to keep the students on track after losing instructional time due to the stoppage in face-to-face instruction at local schools and Georgia Southern, as many tutors didn’t come back to Statesboro after spring break.
“In this time of uncertainty we don’t know when our youth will return to full face-to-face instruction in school, but that doesn’t mean they have to stop learning or lose our support,” Williams said. “With the support of our Georgia Southern students and virtual technology, our little ones can recover from the month-and-a-half instruction loss and keep moving forward. Many of our students were already behind in certain areas, so we don’t want to lose the progress we were making.”
Even though times are uncertain, Brown and Williams are continuing to work hard and stay optimistic about the future of W.E. MOVE.
“In a perfect scenario we would be able to reconvene our face-to-face tutoring sessions,” Williams said. “We miss our students and our students miss their tutors. We hope that next year during this time we’ll be enjoying Friday field trips to the Macon Science Museum, Savannah Railroad Museum and Skidaway Island Aquarium as we’ve done for the past two years.”