Baylor School tutors at Westside Recreation Center recognized for excellence

Baylor School tutors at Westside Recreation Center recognized for excellence

September 25th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Baylor School senior Ling Wu, right, reads with first grade student Carter Daniel, 6, Monday at the Westside Recreation Center.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

Baylor officials are seeking transportation services willing to carry children who once lived in Harriet Tubman housing development to Hope for the Inner City for tutoring. About 100 students from Tubman attended tutoring when the site was open. Now that almost all the residents have relocated, about 50 students are tutored at Hope for the Inner City. To provide transportation assistance, call Vincent Boozer at 423-698-3178.

For two years, Skip Eberhardt stayed in his car when picking up his daughter from the Westside Recreation Center. He thought she only went to play basketball until one day she told him she forgot her books.

Why do you need books, he asked, and learned that she was one of 40 students coming to the recreation center not only to play ball but for tutoring.

About 15 students come from Baylor School for an hour a day, four days a week to tutor children in elementary and middle school. Baylor students have been tutoring in the recreation centers at Westside and East Chattanooga for 17 years.

Eberhardt was so moved by the tutors' dedication, he wanted to give them an award. It took him two months to get up the money for an engraved plaque and to coordinate residents to present the award, but this week he got it done.

"I was really touched by what they were doing. Nobody noticed it," said the 62-year-old single father of five.

Baylor's Director of Community Service Joli Anderson, who coordinates the community service program, said it was the first time the parent of a tutored student from the Westside had publicly recognized the group for its efforts.

Anderson said her goal is to help provide opportunities for all children, regardless of their family's income or residential location, since neither determine intelligence or talent.

"My experience has been that there is unlimited talent and we as a society ought to join together to provide opportunities for everyone," she said.

Anderson and her students come from the private school near the foot of Signal Mountain where nonboarding students pay $20,585 a year to attend. The Westside is a community that includes the largest public housing site in the city and seven other federally subsidized low-income apartment complexes. Only a third of residents 16 to 64 in the community work and more than half the households are in poverty. In 2011 the Westside community had the leading number of gang-related criminal incidents, according to Chattanooga's Comprehensive Gang Assessment.

Tutoring in Westside started off as just another school-required community service project for Seaton Pritchett, a senior at Baylor and student site leader at the Westside. All Baylor students are required to participate in an afterschool activity whether it's sports, a play or community service.

Pritchett played tennis for two years in middle school and started working with Westside youth in her first year of high school. This is her fourth year as a Westside tutor.

"I have no interest in going back to tennis," she said.

This week, 11th-grade Baylor student Olivia Taylor sat against the wall between two first-grade boys, all watching while Eberhardt presented the plaque to Anderson.

"There's an incredible sense of community," Olivia said. "It's an incredible joy."

When asked her motivation for rounding up the Baylor volunteers for 17 years to tutor in Westside, Anderson smiled and pointed to 10-year-old Jarren Carr, who has come to the center since age 4.

He calls the center a place for shelter and fun.

"I only live down the street and this is a good place to go after school," said Carr. "It's better than doing nothing."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or call 423-757-6431.