Bates College partners with the Lewiston Public Library to host tutoring sessions every Monday through Thursday after school. The program is specifically geared towards the high school-aged refugee population in the Lewiston area, but is open to all high school students.
Often, the kids seeking help do not yet have the English language skills that are necessary to thrive in a high school setting. The program aims to help these students understand their assignments and better prepare them for time in the classroom. Bates students work with these high schoolers to plan essays, prepare presentations, and do homework.
While this program is altogether beneficial, there is talk of shutting it down. This is due to a lack of participation by both Bates students and Lewiston High School students. The Bates Student spoke to Ilze Schmidt ’21, the Community Outreach Fellow for this program, to learn more about this issue.
“We want to make sure that kids aren’t being just left behind and aren’t hearing about this program,” She said, “This program is mostly through word of mouth. We’re trying to reach out more to local kids.”
Over the past two years, there has been a significant drop in the number of Lewiston students who attend the program. Now, on any given day, only about five or six students show up at the library for homework help. Some credit the recent appearance of other after-school homework help programs for the lack of participants. Although this sounds like a good thing, there haven’t been significant rises in the number of participants in these programs, either.
To increase visibility, the program has moved from its original space in the computer lab to the center of the library. Since students from local high schools frequent this space on weekdays, the library hopes that they will take advantage of this easily accessible resource.
Regarding the recent lack of Bates participants, fewer classes require students to participate in additional community engagement assignments. The reason for this is unclear – however, Schmidt and other facilitators are trying to coordinate with Bates professors to understand why this might be.
Extra efforts are also being made to recruit from the general Bates community. Emails have been sent out by both Schmidt and the Harward Center for Community Partnerships. Schmidt also described further actions that are being taken: “Now we’re also trying to get the people from the library and the high schools directly involved with this recruiting ¬process so that they’re a bit more in touch.”
Up until now, the Bates community had been very separate from the library community regarding the organization of this program. The hope is that bringing the two together will encourage increased participation.
Only time will tell if these new changes will revive this program. The hope is that it will remain open and continue to help local students access education in a positive way. The program doesn’t just help local students. Schmidt was quick to point this out: “I think that this program is a really good way for Bates kids to connect with the community.” She continued, “I think it helps inform Bates’ connection with the community; because often Bates is criticized for not interacting with the community, and I think that this provides a really good opportunity for that.”
While the future is unclear, the hope is that Bates students and local high school students will be able to continue to enjoy this program for years to come.