It’s Saturday morning in the cafeteria at Ashley Elementary. At every table, third- through fifth-grade students are reading literature, completing math packets or tasting fresh produce – often squash, green beans or jicama.
The young scholars are charter members of the Ashley Explorers Saturday Academy. The Academy pairs 14 Ashley Elementary students with ten Wake Forest students, two recent Wake Forest graduates and two community volunteers for weekly lessons in math, reading and nutrition. By the end of each session, the students leave with their bellies full of healthy food and their education bolstered.
The Ashley Explorers Saturday Academy was founded to strengthen the reading and math skills of ambitious students who can benefit from additional academic support outside the regular school day. Spending Saturday morning at school is not how most young children envision their weekends. However, each week the grinning young scholars come into the school’s cafeteria to find their mentor, grab a snack and practice math and reading.
Despite the early weekend wake-up call, the tutors use their talents to support children in the Winston-Salem community. They major in a variety of subjects — from Latin to sociology to communication to economics — and many of the Wake Forest student mentors are interested in careers in education, either as teachers or policymakers.
As tutors, we want to take what we’ve learned in our education and give it back to the community that has given much to us. In addition to our liberal arts education, Wake Forest offers students opportunities for real-world experience. We learn both inside and outside the classroom.
The Ashley Explorers Saturday Academy is a tremendous example of a school-family-community partnership that provides a framework to develop greater community engagement. We are planning to expand the program in the spring and look forward to offering one-on-one educational support, encouraging curious minds and deepening long-lasting friendships between tutors and young scholars.
Erin Hellmann is a senior sociology major from Frankfort, Ky. As a recipient of Wake Forest’s Richter Scholarship for independent summer study, Hellman researched the education system in South Korea. Next year she will join Teach for America in Phoenix, Ariz.
Logan Healy-Tuke is a senior economics major from Central Kitsap, Wash. Healy-Tuke worked with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust (through Wake Forest’s Institute for Public Engagement) to examine best practices for closing elementary school student achievement gaps. He looks forward to a career in public advocacy.