As more than 775,000 students return to South Carolina schools this fall, many of them face an uphill battle.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted their learning routine for more than a year, and, if the state's standardized test scores are any indication, the disruption caused many to fall behind. But UofSC and the SC Afterschool Alliance are working to help those students.
Dawn Hiller, UofSC’s director of students for arts, humanities and social sciences, coordinated with the SC Afterschool Alliance to create the Community Engagement Tutoring Internship. The new program gives UofSC students opportunities to practice what they've learned by helping K-12 students catch up on what they've missed.
“It’s a good opportunity for students from the university to get experience in the classroom,” Hiller says.
I felt empowered to be and become the best version of myself by practicing what I was teaching. This internship was one of the best experiences I have had in my career.
— Mariana Huselton
But the program is not just for college students interested in teaching careers. Christy
Friend, director of innovative teaching and experiential learning initiatives for
the College of Arts and Sciences, says the course is part of a push to provide superior
experiential learning and professional development opportunities.
“This partnership with the SC Afterschool Alliance is a wonderful opportunity that’s available to all of our students that could open up some really valuable opportunities for them during their degree program here and in their futures,” Friend says.
During their classroom time, undergraduates are trained to be student instructors in afterschool programs or summer camps, Zelda Waymer, SC Afterschool Alliance president and CEO, says. The student instructors help younger students navigate the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate, a college and career readiness aspiration set by the SC State Board of Education.
“Student instructors are teaching and building their personal skills and resume by learning workforce skills that employers want in an employee,” Waymer says.
After the student instructors are trained, they are placed in an afterschool program where they provide 90 hours of lesson plans and activities. Student instructors may work in afterschool programs operated by community-based organizations, faith groups, YMCAs, Boys & Girls Clubs, parks and recreation centers or municipalities.
Thanks to an award from the state of South Carolina, the Afterschool Alliance is offering course scholarships for up to 25 UofSC students, and there may even be opportunities for employment at program sites.
This partnership with the SC Afterschool Alliance is a wonderful opportunity that’s available to all of our students that could open up some really valuable opportunities for them during their degree program here and in their futures.
— Christy Friend
Such was the case for two Carolina students. Media arts major Brianna Clarke and psychology major Mariana Huselton participated in the internship this summer. They worked closely with SC Afterschool Alliance instructors Charles Pinckney and Coray Davis at Boys & Girls Clubs in the Midlands — and got offered jobs at their program sites within the first week of instruction.
“Dr. Pinckney and Dr. Davis helped us immensely with preparing the classroom for the
kids,” Clarke says. “I really enjoyed it. I had such a good connection with the kids.”
K-12 students enrolled in the after-school programs work with curricula based on the College and Career Innovation Digital Badge, which uses digital badges to measure progress and encourage mentees to master skills for college and career readiness.
Meka Childs, project manager for CCIDB, says mentors see up close the impact they have on their mentees.
“University students receive high-quality education while participating in volunteerism to benefit the kids,” she says.
Childs also says the skills gained in the internship — such as time management, communication and critical thinking — will translate to any profession. That goes for student instructors and their students.
“After teaching students about work ethic, tenacity, integrity, teamwork, creativity and innovation, I started reflecting on myself and the ways I could improve,” Huselton says. “I felt empowered to be and become the best version of myself by practicing what I was teaching. This internship was one of the best experiences I have had in my career.”