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April 1, 2024

From student to tutor: How college students can make a huge impact at Reading Partners

Reading Partners has a proven, effective model that makes a meaningful, measurable difference on students’ literacy growth and achievement. In 2023, 79% of Reading Partners Baltimore students met or exceeded their primary end-of-year literary growth goal. More than 300 community tutors went to great lengths to support students and make these statistics possible, including several university students. But what is it like actually volunteering with Reading Partners as a college student?

Morgan State University (MSU) is a storied HBCU located in Baltimore. MSU prides itself on teaching, intensive research, effective public service, and community engagement. One of the university’s fastest-growing degree programs, the Applied Liberal Studies program, holds community engagement as a core component of its course load. Students within this program are required to complete an internship or other substantial community service prior to graduation, giving them real-world experience and a head start on filling out their resumes. 

This year, Reading Partners Baltimore had the opportunity to host two MSU students through the Applied Liberal Studies internship. College students and upcoming graduates Tamia Jackson and Tyler Holmes were gracious enough to tell me about their internship experience, how they apply knowledge from their courses at MSU to their time with Reading Partners, and the wisdom they’ve gained while inside Baltimore city elementary schools.

morgan state university tylar hall

Why Reading Partners?

Morgan State University’s Applied Liberal Studies Program gives its students the flexibility to create a multidisciplinary program of study. Popular among transfer students and those who have changed their majors, Tamia decided to pursue this major, and an internship with Reading Partners, because it aligned with her career goals. 

“Since I want to be a school counselor, I switched my major from psychology to applied liberal studies. I knew I wanted to take a path where I could be inside the classroom sooner rather than later,” said Tamia.

Tamia and Tyler have always had a love of reading and writing, and after entering college, both felt the urge to go out of their way to support their community. Tyler grew up in Baltimore, and became a Reading Partners intern because she wanted students to find solace through learning, as well as serve as an example of positive representation and inspiration to the students that meet with her.

“Growing up and seeing barely anyone on the TV that looks like you can be hard, so it’s so cathartic knowing that my students look up to me and associate me with something as important as reading,” Tyler said. 

a young black female student holds two thumbs up and smiles, the background is of a reading partners reading center

Hard work does pay off

A Reading Partners internship involves many hours of tutoring students, an independent project to support tutor or student engagement, and professional development coaching with a staff member. Tamia and Tyler report to Hilton Elementary School and Woodhome Elementary School, their respective reading centers, at least three days a week, and complete multiple tutoring sessions each day with students. They also take time in the reading center to outline their goals, reflect on challenges they might have faced during tutoring, and brainstorm how to improve future sessions to better support students.  

After delivering over 120 tutoring sessions combined, Tamia and Tyler feel like they are making a tangible difference in the lives of their students, one they are able to see in real time as students progress through Reading Partners’ curriculum.

Tamia and Tyler also speak highly of the program’s Social Emotional Learning curriculum. SEL is a methodology that helps students of all ages to better comprehend their emotions, to feel those emotions fully, and demonstrate empathy for others. It helps students develop a sense of self, become more communicative, and foster pro-social habits that will help them in both their personal, and eventually, professional lives. 

“One day, a student came to me saying, ‘Ms. Jackson, I don’t want to read today’,” said Tamia.

To say something like that, to a teacher or tutor, no doubt takes courage at a young age. But this interaction got Tamia to think on her feet. She quickly went and got her trusted partner, the hand puppet Mr. Giraffe. At the sight of him, the student sprang up. Tamia had Mr. Giraffe read a few passages from a book, with the student repeating back what Mr. Giraffe had read. They then took turns reading, and before the student knew it, they had completed the book almost by themselves!

a young male student reads a book at a desk

Learning from their students

Tamia and Tyler’s students have gained enormous value from their time with them. But it was important for both to realize that tutoring is a two-way street. Over the course of their internships, Tamia and Tyler applied the techniques and knowledge they’ve learned through their college coursework in order to hone their critical thinking skills and develop self-discipline. They now know how to navigate a professional environment, work with people of all different ages and personality types, as well as how to engage with a child and lead a classroom. 

“Seeing the results of my labor in person has been so much more cathartic than receiving grades,” said Tyler. 

In addition to her college assignments and her Reading Partners internship, Tyler also has a job at a hair salon. Working for Reading Partners while juggling her own school work, another job, and personal relationships has helped prepare her for the realities of life after college, and made her more cognizant of how she spends her time and what she values.

“Honestly, I believe any student should take [a Reading Partners internship]. Social workers, people wanting to go into therapy, if you want to work with children—anyone who wants to get involved in their community should really consider this internship,” Tyler said.

two students sit on beanbag chairs laughing; college students make fantastic tutors for kids in their community

What’s next for Tamia and Tyler

Graduation is only a few months away for Tamia and Tyler. Tamia is interested in pursuing a career as a school counselor, and Tyler is still determining her career aspirations. Nevertheless, they both know that participating in the Reading Partners internship has rounded out their skill sets and prepared them to work in almost any kind of work environment. 

Whether you’re looking for valuable experience before graduation, or still figuring things out, a Reading Partners internship can set you up for future academic and professional success. If you want to become an educator, get involved in your community, or simply do something fulfilling, consider volunteering with Reading Partners Baltimore.

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