For the past 10 years, college students and elementary school students of inner city Rochester have been brought together through UR’s tutoring and mentoring program, Partners in Reading. The program is a division of the university’s Community Service Network.
Coordinated by sophomore Zoe Kazmierski and senior Ahlea Howard, members of Partners in Reading spend Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. in classrooms of School 33, the largest and most underprivileged elementary school in the City of Rochester.
“They really like having us there during their free time,” Kazmierski said. “We are younger than their teachers, so we can interact and play with them, and also relate to them more. We also work as teachers’ helpers, but we mostly interact with them through reading and playing.”
CSN advisor Marie Lewis explained that this year’s co-coordinators had a strong basis for the club because of last year’s student coordinator, Sharon Stillwagon, Class of 2002. “She did an amazing job of solidifying the program and maintaining excellent relations with the school and records on the program, putting things in great shape for Ahlea and Zoe,” Lewis said.
According to Kazmierski, people who enjoy working with children and those possibly headed toward a career in education are the type of people who make up Partners in Reading.
Also this year, Spanish-speaking members have the opportunity to work with students in a bilingual setting. “Last year I worked in a monolingual classroom, but this year I’m helping out in a bilingual classroom, which is a nice change,” Howard said. “Also, last year I worked in a third grade classroom, but this year we are almost entirely in kindergarten classrooms.”
The club is designed for as many as 15 members, which amounts to about two students per classroom.
Although more than that responded to the club’s announcements, Howard said only about eight are currently active members and the club is always looking for new members.
Kazmierski said she encourages students to get involved in Partners in Reading, or some sort of CSN program, for the enjoyment as well as the outlook it provides on the world outside of UR. “It’s a lot of fun and it gives you a new perspective on everything, it’s nice to take a step back and realize how lucky you really are to have what you do.”
Lewis agreed with Kazmierksi, adding that CSN’s contribution to Partners in Reading and the university is essential in “building and maintaining community partnerships, a key aspect of CSN’s mission.”
“We always encourage and invite students with ideas for new partnerships with community organizations to come to CSN. [The network] assists with promotions, recruiting volunteers, transportation, developing training materials and any other program support that student coordinators would like,” Lewis said. “Partners in Reading is a great example of a successful program of this nature and it is one of the longest standing CSN supported programs.”