Milton High School students find success by working together

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Stacy Vogel
Monday, March 2, 2009
— "Sarah, get over here!" David St. Clair, a freshman at Milton High School, called to a fellow student Tuesday.

"You've got to see this!"

David hovered over a laptop computer, but he wasn't looking at a YouTube video or Facebook profile.

He was checking his grades—once D's and F's, now up to A's, B's and C's after a few weeks in the school's Support for Success program. He eagerly shared the news with his tutor, senior Sarah Venable, and teacher, Mari Sroda.

"This is what we want to see at midterms," Sroda told him. "This is frame-able."

The Support for Success program has seen many such moments in its first year, Sroda said.

Sroda, the school's at-risk teacher, started the program after working with a similar program at Northside Intermediate School. In that program, high school students tutor fifth graders. In the Support for Success program, academically successful juniors and seniors tutor struggling freshmen.

For the tutors, the program counts as a graded class. For the freshmen, it's a guided study hall.

Each day, about a dozen students per period crowd into Sroda's tiny classroom. The tutors and freshmen bend their heads over textbooks and papers to look at the day's work.

Tuesday, many of the freshmen were working on a physical science assignment. Several pairs chose to work on it together.

The quiet hum of conversation mixed with soothing background music. Sroda wandered the room, offering advice and encouragement.

"She is a master motivator," Principal Jeremy Bilhorn said of Sroda. "She's created an atmosphere where kids want to be in here."

Freshman Drew Kwarciany enrolled in the class to get help in math, but his grades have improved across the board, he said.

He credits his tutor, senior Claire Hemmerling, with helping him learn.

"If I don't understand anything, she goes over it with me so I know I'm doing it right," he said.

Drew's parents are thrilled with the results, his mother, Barbara Kwarciany, said.

"We can see a major improvement in him, and he just seems to love to go there," she said.

They aren't the only parents happy with the program. In a recent survey, 75 percent of parents said their children were getting slightly better or much better grades over their eighth-grade performances. Motivation improved in 88 percent of cases, parents said.

All parents said they'd recommend the program to another family.

The program benefits the tutors, too, Sroda said. They see what it's like for students who learn differently and get the chance to show leadership. They're trained to be respectful and make sure the freshmen don't feel judged.

Claire, Drew's tutor, said she loves knowing she's helping fellow students.

"It just feels good," she said.

Last updated: 10:00 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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