Pilot Tutoring Program Launches at High School

By RJ Smith

POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie High School welcomed the kick-off meeting for its Pilot Tutoring Program last Monday afternoon. The program’s creation was influenced in part through recognition of the City of Poughkeepsie School District’s low graduation rates. Wesley Lee, founder of the not-for-profit organization Save At Risk Children for Corporate America, Inc. (SARCA), is a big proponent of correcting this issue. “As you know, the Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD) has graduated less than fifty percent of the senior class most of the last few decades,” Lee said. “I have been involved in an attempt to improve the graduation rate for many years.”

Lee’s not-for-profit organization SARCA was the recent recipient of a grant of $20,000.00 from Dutchess County. The grant was provided by the county for the sake of the pilot program’s development through which a small group of eighth graders will receive tutoring in English and Math. Data proving students’ academic improvement is planned to be distributed locally. “The data representing the students’ improvement will be disseminated to local businesses, foundations and individual philanthropists, who will hopefully donate funding to provide the tutoring for each child in the seventh and eighth grades,” Lee said.

Wesley Lee shakes hands with City of Poughkeepsie Planning and Development employee Bryan Cranna in front of Poughkeepsie High School’s Black History Month future leaders photo wall.
Wesley Lee shakes hands with City of Poughkeepsie Planning and Development employee Bryan Cranna in front of Poughkeepsie High School’s Black History Month future leaders photo wall.

“The ultimate goal is to prepare the students to do well in high school, thereby increasing the graduation rate to 90 percent, or better. Not only will this help alleviate the ‘black eye’ of providing less than adequate education for students of PCSD, which are over 80 percent black and brown, it will also help prepare qualified employees for local businesses.”

The pilot program at Poughkeepsie High School has been heralded by one of its students, Aubrey Wood. Aubrey Wood, recognized for her academic achievements, spoke about her involvement in the program in one of the high school’s classrooms. “The tutors that I got are capable of helping other people academically,” Wood said. “They’re tenth and eleventh graders right now, but we’re hoping to expand that next year. This is just a pilot, so this is where we’re at right now. We’re focusing on ELA and mathematics right now.”

Katie Livermore, a mathematics teacher at Poughkeepsie High School, also shared information regarding the program and the drive behind it. “We’re starting with a baseline right now,” Livermore said. “I gained access to middle school data, so that I could see the kids’ grades every day, every time. We’re also collecting anecdotal data from their ELA and math teachers right now, to see what kind of improvements and suggestions there should be. We’re talking to parents on a regular, weekly basis. We’re offering incentives to the tutors and students being tutored. We’re trying to make it a fun experience, so on a day-to-day basis, we’re having snacks and listening to music while we work. We’re trying to keep it fun and trying to build relationships with students who make good choices and know they are going to fill out those college scholarships without being told.”

Livermore spoke on the importance of giving students proper academic support, as well as building peer relationships between the tutors and tutees. She concluded the kick-off meeting by elaborating on her goals for the program. “They’re being mentors without trying, which is what I’m always trying to remind my National Honor Society (NHS) students,” Livermore said. “Our main goals here are to provide academic support for ELA and mathematics. Secondly here, which I feel is more important, is to build relationships, so that kids have a peer relationship when they transition to the high school, someone that they already know they can go to who’s here. Hopefully the kids that are in the tutoring program will become the tutors, which is what I really want to see happening. That’s my personal goal as a teacher.”


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