Upper School volunteers tutor at-risk students in the Fifth Ward area


Marci Bahr

Junior Thomas Chang tutors a McReynolds student in reading. All McReynolds students have connections to the criminal justice system.

Rahul Rupani, Staff Writer

While community service has taken on tutoring projects in the past, the students at McReynolds Middle School present a unique set of circumstances—all students have either been involved in the juvenile criminal justice system or have incarcerated parents. Some of the students directly involved with the justice system were given two options by the District Attorney: enter the juvenile justice system or attend tutoring sessions. 

Led by junior Lauren Fulghum, the project provides literacy and math services every Saturday for students at-risk of failing at McReynolds Middle School in the Fifth Ward area.

According to Community Service Director Marci Bahr, all McReynolds students qualify for a discounted lunch and are two to five years behind their grade level.

A running record system is used to help track a student’s progress. First, the student will read through a selected passage while tutors note which words they are struggling with. They then reread the passage with the tutor, working on particularly rough areas. 

“Every week, we see more and more improvement,” junior Thomas Chang said. “Being able to see the students’ progress is truly a great feeling.”

Tutors employ a “growth mindset” and reassure students that struggling with challenging concepts is a positive sign of progress. 

“We are trying to build them up at the same time as building their literacy skills,” Bahr said. 

Many students who attend McReynolds come from a variety of backgrounds. Recently, tutors worked with a refugee who arrived from Honduras two months ago. Such circumstances create language barriers between tutors and tutees who do not speak English proficiently.

“We have a bunch of literacy materials in different grade levels, and we try to pick the ones that are just above their skill level so we can help them with that next step,” Bahr said.  

Even though the project has just started, McReynolds students are already benefiting from the program. According to Bahr, all McReynolds students have requested the same tutor for following sessions and have written positive comments.

“When our students are getting that positive feedback from the students they are helping, goodness gracious it makes you all want to come back and do it again because you can feel the impact of your work,” Bahr said. 

Student tutors are also excited about the future of the project.

“I am excited to see how great of an impact the St. John’s community will have on students’ educational development at McReynolds,” Chang said. “It’s hard to realize just how powerful a positive learning attitude is until you experience it first hand through a project such as McReynolds.”