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By Mike McKibbin

With funding help from the Wheat Ridge Community Foundation, struggling students at Wheat Ridge High School are now able to seek tutoring help from fellow students who can help them achieve their academic goals.

Chad Meyers, speaking on behalf of the Foundation, is an employment specialist with Jeffco Public Schools and the School to Work Alliance Program, or SWAP. That program is a collaborative effort between the school district and the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. SWAP’s mission is to help youth between the ages of 15 and 24 transition from school to work and become successfully employed. Through matching employers’ needs with student interests and capabilities, SWAP hopes to expand employment opportunities for young adults, engage local businesses in a community partnership that supports local youth in a successful school-to-work transition, among other benefits. SWAP youth have a mild to a moderate barrier to employment; are either graduating, have graduated, dropped out or are at risk of dropping out; have some degree of difficulty finding meaningful employment; display a strong desire and motivation to work in their community, and are unemployed or underemployed.

Meyers, a Foundation board member, said that for several years, the Foundation had awarded scholarships to graduating high school students seeking careers through certificates or in trade-related areas. However, not all the students, awarded scholarships, followed through with their post-secondary plans for various reasons.

“When we started looking at why that was happening, one thing we came upon was a need for tutoring help for struggling students,” Meyers said. “Some of the students had trouble proving they could handle college-level courses with their reading and writing skills. For example, if a student wanted to go to Red Rocks [Community College] for an electrician certificate, they might have trouble passing their math classes or even an entrance exam that demonstrates they know the material.”

The Foundation approved a $2,500 grant for the 2018-19 academic year to be spent in three areas: $500 for curriculum development, $1,500 to pay tutors and $500 for incentive compensation to be paid to tutors when the students they are tutoring  achieve their academic goals.

The main goal of the tutoring grant is to provide help to struggling students by matching them with exceptional students through the school’s Gifted and Talented Center. The grant will introduce tutors to entrepreneurism by paying them to help students achieve their academic goals, according to the grant application to the Community Foundation.

To measure the success of the grant and tutoring program, students receiving the services will accomplish the academic goals for which they are being tutored, and those hired to be tutors will take a post-tutoring survey to identify the areas where they have developed more skills, such as leadership, content knowledge, a better understanding of the world of small business, etc.

Student tutors will enroll in the program through a federal tax form 1099, submit invoices to the school’s bookkeeper and be paid when the school issues regular payroll checks. “The tutors will get the experience of some of what it takes to run their own business,” Meyers said. Tutors are paid $15 an hour, must have an interest in tutoring, and are recommended to the program by Gifted and Talented teachers. If the students they tutor achieve their academic goals, another $50 bonus is earned by the tutor. The program plans to have 10 tutors provide 10 one-hour tutoring sessions to each participating student.

The grant provides for 20 students to participate in the program this school year as either tutors or those who receive tutoring help.

Meyers noted if the program is successful at Wheat Ridge High School, it may be expanded to Everitt Middle School next year, if funding is available.

“It could be we find the tutoring works well at the high school level, [and even though it] might get complicated at the middle school level, that may be where it could be more beneficial,” since it could instill good study habits at a younger age, Meyers added. The Foundation board and Gifted and Talented Center will evaluate the effectiveness of the grant at the end of the school year.

For more information about SWAP or enrolling in the Gifted and Talented tutoring program, contact Chad Meyers, chad.meyers@jeffco.k12.co.us, 303-982-7014.