How does a service internship program provide service during a pandemic? If you’re a COOP (Community Outreach and Opportunity Project) service intern you adjust, adapt, and take to Zoom. And then you expand programming to engage other Hamilton students eager to take on volunteering.
A case in point is COOP’s tutoring program, which has flourished this semester. COOP Senior Fellow Avery Cook ’21 said that 50 Hamilton students participated with the Clinton Central School District, tutoring everyone from first-graders in reading to upper-level geometry high schoolers.
Cook attributed the large response to the flexibility of the program. She said students can easily fit tutoring into their schedules because the time commitment is only one hour a week, and the tutor and tutee work out the time/day individually. Plus Hamilton students found themselves with more free time because many extracurricular activities, jobs, and sports either did not happen this semester or were scaled back.
COOP Director Amy James said that before the program could even begin, students had to undergo background checks, complete an online module about working with minors, and be in contact with the families of the children to be tutored.
“I’m so appreciative of the on-the-ground work that Avery put in, as well as the enthusiasm of the volunteers who had to do so much more in order to participate,” James said. “I think Hamilton tutors are keenly aware of the rising needs in the community at this time and have a lot of empathy for younger students who are struggling to navigate the complex world of remote learning.”
Hamilton students also tutor high school students living at the Clinton ABC (A Better Chance) House, located on campus. This national program brings academically motivated boys from historically underrepresented backgrounds together to complete high school while living in a communal residence headed by a host family.
Adrienne Thayaparan ’23 has been tutoring ABC students in writing, math, history, and Spanish. “I really enjoy interacting with each of them and getting to know them better,” she said. “With this semester, the scholars have adapted well to their environment and are thriving.”
Tutor Noah Giovannelli ’21 said that the toughest aspect of tutoring remotely was initially connecting with the students over Zoom. Logistically, there were many details to work out back in the fall because schools at all levels, including Hamilton, were adjusting to the blend of in-person and online learning.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the tutors and ABC scholars to develop relationships with one another. “Since they’re all in high school, the college process is beginning for them, and for some it is well underway,” Giovannelli added. “I remember how stressful that process was, and I hope that our academic help and interactions with them can assist in their high school experience, especially during COVID times.”
COOP director Amy James, in concluding, said “I look forward in the future of course to being back in person with our programs, but now that we know how to do this we’ll be keeping remote tutoring on our menu of programming.”