Meelia Center Tutoring Program Supports Manchester Students Amidst Remote Learning

March 3, 2021

By Samantha Jette ‘20

students in virtual meeting
Memorial High School student with two Meelia Center tutors.

Saint Anselm College’s Meelia Center for Community Engagement partnered with the Manchester School District to create the Remote Learning Collaborative. This initiative provides academic support for local K-12 students during this uncertain time. The program, now in its third semester, pairs Saint Anselm students with elementary, middle, and high school students across the Manchester School District for tutoring. The Saint Anselm tutors supplement the curriculum, guiding individual students through their classwork, and forming meaningful connections, all over video chat.

As schools shut their doors due to the pandemic, students and educators turned to online platforms, such as Zoom and Google Classroom. The transition from in-person to remote learning came with countless challenges for students and educators alike. Children in a classroom turned to icons on a monitor, recess turned to screen breaks, and the regular in-person instruction that so many students counted on is now conducted online. Manchester students were no exception.

“When things first shut down and everything went remote, we were worried about the challenges that would present for K-12 students in Manchester, particularly students from underrepresented backgrounds and with limited resources,” said Nicole Lora, Meelia Center director. “We also have a long-standing relationship with the district and other community partners, so we decided to reach out.”

From there, the Meelia Center hit the ground running, knowing that there was work to do. Lora, as well as a team of staff and student leaders, planned the program as they went. They connected with students and families in Manchester, leaning on their community partner schools to determine what was possible. Working together to problem solve and overcome barriers, they piloted a tutoring program in spring 2020.

InfographicAfter a successful pilot semester, the Remote Learning Collaborative launched in fall 2020 with approval from the Manchester School Board. As of spring 2021, 230 Manchester students in 10 schools have received tutoring from a total of 209 Meelia Center tutors. Saint Anselm students can participate in the program through either staff and volunteer positions, as well as through community-based learning courses. The courses offer Saint Anselm students an option for integrated learning through service as tutors. Seven courses offered the community-based learning option in the fall 2020 semester, and 9 in spring 2021.

To participate, tutors must first complete a school district-approved training course. Once they are cleared, they are added to the school system’s online learning platforms, which allows them to access the students’ assignments, as well as allow them to maintain close contact with the students’ teachers.

Nursing major Annie Adames ‘23 shared her experiences tutoring a high school junior. At first, the student was struggling to keep her grades up amidst the pandemic. Adames and her co-tutor quickly came up with a plan to ease the student’s mind. They met about one subject for 2-4 hours each day over Google Classroom. During these meetings, the tutors advocated for the student, communicated with her teachers, ensured her work was submitted on time, and provided necessary clarifications.

“We were there for her,” explained Adames.

After a few weeks, there was a noticeable shift in the student’s confidence and motivation. Instead of looking to her tutors for reassurance, the student knew she was capable of completing her assignments. She began to see her work pay off.

“I loved seeing that transition in her...that willingness to get help,” remarked Adames.

Memorial High School senior Maryam Idan reached out to the tutoring program because she was struggling with her English class. After meeting with two Saint Anselm co-tutors, she ended up passing with a high grade.

“They were a big help,” said Idan.

Saint Anselm tutors did more than just provide academic support, though. A large part of the partnership revolved around forming meaningful connections with the students, even through a screen. Some days, it was all about checking in with the students, and asking about their day to day lives.

“They were just glad to have someone to talk to,” said English major Ben Danielson ‘23.

“Tutors help with academics, but are also serving as role models and a source of connection during such a challenging and isolating time,” added Lora.

Lora remarked that the program could not have been possible without a hardworking group of Saint Anselm student leaders.

“We knew that their passion and talents would be up for that task and with support along the way that they would shape this program and strengthen our relationships with the individual schools we were working with. They did just that,” she said. 

Because the program is still new, Lora noted that she and her staff are always learning new ways to make it work.

“It is possible to engage in a meaningful way with others remotely,” she said.

Technology has been a helpful tool in the Meelia Center’s work with the community. It has allowed the program to have a larger impact and reach a larger population. Students who may not have been able to participate in programs before, can now log online and feel connected.

Like all Meelia Center partnerships, the goal of the Remote Learning Collaborative was to become a part of the community; student tutors act as collaborators rather than experts.

“I tried my best to be open and genuine with the students I was working with. I wanted to make it clear we were on an open playing field,” said Secondary Education and English major Manon Nadeau ‘21.

Beyond providing a service to Manchester students, the Remote Learning Collaborative acts as a learning opportunity for everyone involved, including the Saint Anselm student tutors. The college students have grown in many ways throughout the program.

In their reflections, tutors noted that working with students of a diverse background shaped their outlook on education during the pandemic. It made them more aware of challenges that exist for some students, and how those challenges make their way into the classroom. Many of the Saint Anselm volunteers hope to become educators one day themselves, making these lessons valuable for their future work.

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