November 03, 2004

Former school being refurbished for program SIUC students will tutor Cairo children

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - - Southern Illinois University Carbondale is expanding its outreach efforts to include after-school tutoring for students in the Cairo School District.

Graduate students will work with third- through eighth-grade students Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. in reading, literacy and eventually math and science. The program, which will offer one-on-one and small group instruction, will serve between 30 and 50 students in the former Cairo Junior High School.

Members of SIUC fraternities and sororities and other registered student organizations are cleaning and refurbishing the school, and another work detail is set for Saturday, Nov. 6.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the work detail and interview Saluki Kids' Academy Director John C. Davis and SIUC students about the project. Students will be working at the former junior high school between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 6. Also expected to attend are Dan Anderson, the regional superintendent of schools for Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties, and Cairo School District officials. To reach the former Cairo Junior High School: Take Interstate 57 south to the Cairo exit. Turn left onto Illinois 3 and follow the highway (it turns into U.S. 51) into Cairo. Turn right onto 27th Street and go four blocks to the school. For more information, contact John C. Davis at 618/453-6468.

"We have been working with Cairo educators and parents for several years through the Saluki Kids' Academy to build a partnership that focuses on academic and cultural enrichment for Cairo students," said R. Keith Hillkirk, dean of the College of Education and Human Services.

"Being able to use the Cairo Junior High will enable us to have a visible presence in Cairo and provide a home for academic tutoring and other efforts."

The Illinois State Board of Education previously approved SIUC's Saluki Kids' Academy as a certified Education Service provider. Marla H. Mallette, an assistant professor in Curriculum and Instruction, worked successfully with 30 students from Cairo this past summer.

Saluki Kids' Academy is an outreach program founded three years ago by the College of Education and Human Services. The goal is to spark an interest in academics among students who have had difficulty working to potential.

The supplemental educational delivery system plan that Mallette put together will now go "on the road," and is beneficial in various ways, said John C. Davis, director of Saluki Kids' Academy. In addition to teaching, there are also service and research components to the project, all of which fit in with the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment, Davis said.

Southern@150 is the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.

Malette expects the program will use between eight and 10 graduate students as tutors for reading and language studies. The program also will offer some graduate assistantships in the spring, she said. The research opportunities are in "studying the effectiveness of our tutoring program and study the effects of tutoring with kids of all ages," said Mallette.

The students also will come to campus for events that involve other University programs, Davis said.

SIUC is the only supplemental service provider in the region that parents can choose for face-to-face instruction for their children, Mallette said. Bringing services to Cairo also sends an important message that the University is there to offer help, she added.

"This gives us an opportunity to test these different delivery systems," said Davis. "Because what we find works in Cairo might well work in Shawneetown, East St. Louis, Carmi or other communities. The demographics of Cairo give us an opportunity to work in an area where there is great need, and the thing we have also found is they are very cooperative."

Davis also noted another important consideration is strengthening the University's relationship with Cairo.

"In the long run we hope to deepen and widen the recruitment pool; it's a recruitment initiative," he said. "If we prepare, if we get kids ready for college, and we already have relationships with these kids because of things we have been doing, such as Marla's initiative, then we have a head start in getting those kids to come to SIUC."

Utilizing graduate students also provides valuable experience, said Mallette. Sometimes, students are not prepared to work with students who struggle in reading, she said.

"Perhaps the best way to learn about struggling readers is to work directly with struggling readers so it provides a great learning opportunity for them, as opposed to working with students whom reading comes easily to," Mallette said.

"These students span all different ages and grade levels so it will give them experience with a variety of abilities and different types of difficulties."

The Regional Office of Education for Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties is making classroom space available for the tutoring program. The program is part of a consortium of tenants in the building to also include regional alternative education services, special education services, the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service, and the Cairo School District administrative offices.

Members of Theta Xi and Delta Sigma Phi fraternities and Delta Zeta sorority spent two Saturdays last month painting, cleaning and landscaping the junior high school. Their work has been invaluable in getting the program started, said Davis.

"It wouldn't have happened if they hadn't done it," he said. "There were no financial resources to clean up the building and they worked unbelievably hard."

For more information on the program contact Saluki Kids' Academy Director John C. Davis or assistant professor Marla H. Mallette at 618/453-6468.