On a Saturday morning in Homewood, children are excitedly gathered around Pitt Education student Ciara Bailey. They play a version of Candyland but with a reading education twist. A student draws a colorful card from the stack, reads the passage on it, and moves her piece.
The students are having so much fun that they don’t even realize they are learning. The activity is part of PittEnrich, a new program from Pitt Education that sends Combined Accelerated Studies In Education (CASE) and Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP) students to tutor in local schools and at the Community Engagement Center (CEC) in Homewood. The PittEnrich program was launched in partnership with The Gismondi Family Foundation, Pitt’s School of Social Work, the School of Education and the CEC.
At the PittEnrich Saturday sessions at the Homewood CEC, first- through third-grade students from the area can enroll as “Panther Cubs.” Students from local schools and home-schooled children come to these weekend sessions.
“We’re here to make reading and literacy fun,” said Bailey, who is a junior in her first year of the CASE program. One of the things Bailey enjoys most about PittEnrich is the chance to make reading fun for students. Bailey said she also enjoys assessing the students’ reading skills and creating lesson plans based on their needs.
Some students, like Bailey, tutor on the weekend, while other PittEnrich tutors go into local schools on weekdays to tutor. Jack Haverty, a first-year CASE student, tutors at Faison K-5 school during the school week.
In addition to working directly with the children, tutors like Haverty also help out the classroom teacher. The teacher can answer questions that the tutors may have, providing a meaningful learning opportunity. The tutors use tools to help teachers with assessments.
“It’s awesome to see how different children respond differently to things,” said Haverty.
Pitt Education Professor Anna Arlotta-Guerrero oversees the tutors.
“PittEnrich is the perfect opportunity for students to teach, while at the same time cultivate relationships with and learn from the Homewood community. In the initial professional development session, led by Daren Ellerbee, director of the Homewood Community Engagement Center, PittEnrich tutors learned about the history of Homewood. We want all of our teacher certification students to reflect upon how they carry out the School of Education mission. PittEnrich allows us to learn from the children, families and community leaders in Homewood with whom we collaborate,” said Arlotta-Guerrero.
“Professor Arlotta-Guerrero has been fantastic as my program director and is one of the best people I know,” Haverty said.
For Bailey, the work with PittEnrich aligns with her career mission to make education more equitable. “Because the program is free, it makes it accessible to children whose families don’t have the funds for tutoring. It fits with my interest in equity,” she said. The tutoring program, as well as lunch, transportation, enrichment activities, prizes, and family fun nights are all free of charge to families.
Bailey aspires to become a teacher, and to also shape education policy. Looking toward a future in education policy, Bailey values the chance to speak with students and parents.
“I like talking to the kids and families about what they want, so I can keep that in mind when I work in education policy someday,” she said.
The kind of community understanding that Bailey developed is exactly what Arlotta-Guerrero had in mind for the program. “This is especially important for students who have not grown up or had experiences in urban spaces, or are of a different race, cultural, or linguistic background to the communities in which we collaborate. PittEnrich gives CASE students an additional opportunity to impact children, families and school as we work towards creating an equitable learning environment for all children,” said Arlotta-Guerrero.
Haverty aims to become a teacher and then a principal someday. The PittEnrich program is a helpful step in his career path.
“When I start student-teaching next year, I know I’ll draw on my experiences from PittEnrich,” said Haverty. “The work between Pittsburgh public schools, the Community Engagement Center and Pitt Education impacts the community, and I hope it continues for a long time.”
The CASE program is currently accepting applications. Apply here.
If you or someone you know is interested in enrolling a child in the Saturday program, visit the PittEnrich website or stop into the Community Engagement Center at 622 N. Homewood Avenue, Pittsburgh PA.