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Justice Friday highlights CAT Program

| Monday, September 14, 2015

This week’s Justice Friday lecture highlighted how Saint Mary’s women can impact students in the South Bend Community School Corporation.

The conversation, led by assistant director of the Office for Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE) Samira Payne, focused on the College Academy of Tutoring (CAT) Program, which employs Saint Mary’s students to serve as tutors and teacher’s assistants in partnered schools.

Payne said the CAT program works primarily with local Title I schools to strengthen the schools and local community. Two primary partners are Harrison Primary Center and Nevarre Intermediate Center.

“We seek to provide resources through tutoring and teacher assistants, a pen pal program with fourth-graders and donating uniforms and school supplies,” Payne said. 

In the South Bend area, there are more students in need than the State of Indiana’s rates, Payne said.

“In the State of Indiana only 41 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch in South Bend that number is 60%. In addition to that, in the State of Indiana, 75 percent of students are achieving at or above grade level and in South Bend it is 60%.”

Payne said it is important to focus on the strengths of Saint Mary’s students and share those strengths to make the local schools and community stronger.

Juniors Jade Johnson, Miranda Reed and sophomore Alexis Stigler have participated in the CAT Program and shared their unique experiences.

Johnson said participants in the CAT Program serve as consistent and positive influences in the students’ lives.

“You know that the consistency you’re giving them makes them hopeful,” Johnson said “I tutored the same girl over the course of a year, and when she started coming in she was unable to finish any homework beforehand. I saw a drastic change in her ability to learn. By the end of the year, she was completing a majority of her homework on her own and was even on the honor roll.”

Reed said the best part of the experience was being able to see how much the kids come into themselves, develop confidence and focus on their risk taking abilities.

“I was a teacher’s assistant last year, and I loved being able to give kids who need it one-on-one attention,” Reed said.

Stigler, who helped tutor and read to local fourth graders, said it was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.

“The kids are so excited, you wouldn’t believe how happy they are just to see us walk in the door. For me, the best moment was when a girl said she wanted to go to college because we were there,” Stigler said.

Payne said the volunteers have a lot of fun in the CAT Program, but also all come together to discuss problems they might be facing.

“All of the CAT Program participants come together to talk about their experiences, celebrate, vent and think about different issues that might be affecting their students,” Payne said. “It is not just about providing resources. We also talk about what more we can do to impact change.”

Payne said Saint Mary’s women should consider how they can create long-lasting, sustainable change and also focus on considering how to best help students who need immediate help. 

The Justice Friday lecture series takes place every Friday from 12 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. in Conference Room A and B of the Student Center.

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