Thursday, November 5, 2009

Tutoring Plus honors Lesley with Children's Champion Award

Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley's project, in partnering with Tutoring plus, continues to gather steam.

Tutoring Plus, founded in 1964, provides tutoring and other services to children in Cambridge’s most needy neighborhoods. As a non-profit with a child-focused mission, their success relies heavily on a spirit of volunteerism and forging strong relationships with local university’s and corporations.

At their annual celebration, they presented Lesley University with the Children’s Champion Award, recognizing the work of Lesley student volunteers, years of collaborative efforts and financial support. In presenting the award, Executive Director Ellen McLaughlin noted that large organizations often approach Tutoring Plus with their own notions of what the mission should be, “but Lesley University instead asks ‘how can we help you?’ And they are there to work with us to explore the ways we can grow.”

“Their work in the community, not just with Tutoring Plus, but throughout Cambridge and Area 4, demonstrates their commitment to education, their commitment to making lives better for children and families in the community,” McLaughlin said.

Lesley University President Joseph B. Moore accepted the award on behalf of the University, especially the students and staff whose work was being recognized, but stressed relationships between the University and non-profits is not a one way benefit.

“These relationships make it more likely that we are in the community, that the dynamics in the community make our academic work more connected,” said Moore. “As scholars, we don’t abandon theory and research, but compliment it with our feet, our head and hearts in the community beyond our campus.”

Moore went on to compliment the practical vision of Tutoring Plus’ mission, saying, “You have cut through the education debates, politics, policies and funding issues to focus on real outcomes. By engaging young people in focused learning by providing them with sustaining, predictable and mature young adults and adults who are smart and who care. What a mission!”

Lesley University’s collaboration with Tutoring Plus takes several forms. Each year, Tutoring Plus is a host site for Lesley’s “Day of Service” during new student orientation and during the Summer Corps of Service, a nine week summer program funded by Federal Work Study. Organized by Dan Flynn, Lesley’s Director of Community Service, this past year’s efforts included painting the offices and student work spaces at Tutoring Plus’ Windsor Street headquarters.

Tutoring Plus and Lesley are currently partnered in a project led by Lesley faculty member Dr. Amy Rutsein-Riley called “Girlhood, Identity and Girl Culture.” Through the project, Lesley students in a Women’s Studies course lead a series of media awareness and body image workshops for teenage girls in Cambridge. The program includes a visit to the Lesley campus, which McLaughlin cited as many of the girls’ first visit to a college campus and fostering their goal for higher education.

“We design every session, but I think we learn more than they learn,” said Lesley student Bonnie Bryant, a participant in Girlhood, Identity and Girl Culture. “The program focuses on the impact of the media on girls’ body image and self-image. Eleven year old girls know more than you think they do; it’s amazing.”

Much of the relationship between Lesley and Tutoring Plus in recent years has been fostered through a collaborative working relationship between McLaughlin and Alice Diamond, Associate Dean for Career and Community Service at Lesley. Through their cooperation, they’ve been able to coordinate towards the sharing of a Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, and coordination of Lesley student volunteers as tutors.

For more information on Tutoring Plus, visit

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