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September 26, 2008
By Jon Fortenbury
The University’s Honors Program is partnering with Hug High School to offer a one-on-one mentoring/tutoring program. Honors students will serve as teaching assistants and tutors in algebra and geometry courses to high school students whose first language is not English.
“If we were able to get an influx of 30-50 UNR students on our campus working every week, that will just show the kids that there are a whole bunch more people out there who think they can do it,” said Andrew Kelley, principal of Hug High School. “So the power of working together as a team to make better outcomes for the kids is the bottom line.”
Hug High School was once the least achieving and least safe school in northern Nevada. According to Kelly, though, Hug has improved dramatically over the past three years.
“What’s pretty exciting is that we’re actually creating a national model that within three years will be the kind of school where urban centers around the state can come to look at when they’re thinking about how to have a high density of minority and low-income kids and make a school like that successful,” Kelley said.
According to Kelley, many intelligent students at Hug High face significant roadblocks to success because they are not fluent in English, which is the only language in which proficiency tests are given. Nevada students could remedy this by offering the extra help to keep such students on pace.
“It’s not necessarily the case that these students don’t have the smarts to do the English or the math,” said Tamara Valentine, director of the Honors Program. “It’s simply that there seems to be a language disconnect.”
Nevada honors students benefit in several ways by participating in the program, including scholarship possibilities and honors credit. But Kelly hopes the participants see more than just academic reasons to help.
“Hopefully the intrinsic value of helping someone that’s not quite where you are will be enough,” he said.
For Alyssa Christensen, a senior finance major from Las Vegas, her participation is not only for honors credit or the possibility of getting a scholarship, but also for the rewarding aspects.
“I understand,” Christensen said. “I grew up in a poor family and I did everything I could to get past that…so I’m just trying to help them out.”
Other than being a member of the university’s Honors Program, students also have to fill out a mentor application and attend training sessions. Though students can provide whatever amount of time they have, a commitment of 25 hours over the nine-week semester is ideal.
“To have these kinds of mentors, who are academically successful, tutor students who might not really believe they can go to college just has the power and potential to change lives,” said Rita Escher, director of the University’s TRIO programs.