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Tutoring program flourishes

Kate Antonacci | Wednesday, September 8, 2004

In early 1998, a group of dissatisfied Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students decided that South Bend needed an effective tutoring program, one with a clear structure, purpose and focus on literacy that would help promote change in schools. The students joined together and Teamwork for Tomorrow was born. After entering into a partnership with the City of South Bend Housing Authority, Teamwork for Tomorrow was given permission to run an after-school program for children between ages 8 and 12. The program is built around five core values: purpose, commitment, mutual trust and respect, affirmation and accountability. Teamwork for Tomorrow aims to improve reading skills through tutoring, to build strong mentor-student relationships and to enhance positive social development. “Teamwork for Tomorrow serves children who have all the odds stacked againstthem,” said Maggie Lee, president of the program.The program began with just two tutoring days a week at Saint Patrick’s Community Center in South Bend, but in the six years since its conception it has grown immensely to become one of the most popular tutoring projects on campus. “When we put out the application for fall tutors, we had no clue how huge the response would be,” Lee said. “We had 130 applicants for 30 positions as mentors and had a hard time accepting the fact that we would have to turn away 100 Notre Dame and St. Mary’s students who would make incredible mentors.”Due to the quick success of the program, Teamwork began a replication site last spring at St. Casamir’s Parish in South Bend. Originally serving 20 students twice a week, the new program now runs two smaller programs, with a total of 40 students, Monday through Thursday. “We can maintain the small, personal feel of Teamwork and foster really positive relationships between the mentors and kids,” said Lee.The uniqueness of the program has also been recognized by the South Bend community. In May 1999, it was commended for excellence by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials. “Teamwork focuses on the empowerment of a child through literacy, and feels that if we can help better a child’s reading and writing skills, he or she will be able to do their homework on their own and feel good about the work they did,” Lee said. Teamwork for Tomorrow united with Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives, which facilitates the training of mentors. The program’s undergraduate executive staff also completes a rigorous leadership program and is advised by an experienced educator. Due to the popularity of the program, the selection process has become very competitive. “I think that the competitive nature of Teamwork for Tomorrow reflects the student body’s desire to make a difference in the South Bend Community,” Lee said. “The remarkable relationships formed are life-changing to all who participate in Teamwork for Tomorrow – mentors and children alike.”