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Students help at after-school tutoring program

Layton Dudley

The Plum Grove after-school program provides role models for local children. CW | Layton Dudley

Margaret Wilbourne

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Emily Bryant, a junior majoring in early childhood education, serves as a program leader for Plum Grove.

“We spend half the time tutoring and half playing games and really just forming personal relationships,” 
she said.

Bryant became involved last year through Calvary Baptist Church’s college outreach, The Well, which collaborates with Plum Grove for the tutoring program. She now also volunteers in a leadership role, helping to 
coordinate volunteers.

“A lot of [children’s] parents have to work after their children [finish their day], so there’s really a need for an after-school program,” she said. “We help to supply the volunteers who work one-on-one and get to know 
the kids.”

Phyllis Rodgers, the director of the program, said the idea was inspired by Plum Grove’s pastor, who had a specific mission in mind.

“This was one of our pastor’s visions, to provide an after-school program to Tuscaloosa City Schools, especially the western cluster,” she said. “Being able to able to make a positive difference in their lives 
is important.”

This positive difference comes not only from tutoring but also from a more personal aspect the program seeks to provide. Callie Mashburn, a junior majoring in chemical 
engineering, works alongside Bryant to help lead the volunteers and said she agrees their role extends far past that of 
a teacher.

“I’ve always liked teaching, but I would say volunteering is all about being a mentor, too,” Mashburn said. “You can definitely see a difference in the [children] when you go every week, and how much they care when 
you’re there.”

Rodgers said as a director, she is dedicated to finding volunteers who aren’t just looking for another resume builder.

“I like to meet with volunteers and talk to see if there’s a fit, because that’s really important,” she said. “Everyone can’t tutor and can’t work with kids. We’re looking for people who want to be there and love the children.”

While it may seem difficult to juggle tutoring with the other day-to-day responsibilities of a college student, Mashburn said it’s easy with good scheduling habits and dedication.

“It’s nice because everything is so structured,” she said. “You can just build [going] into your schedule and say, ‘This time is set aside for this.’ [Plum Grove] was something I wanted to do, so I made it work.”

The program, which is in its third year, is held in the gym of the local Plum Grove Baptist Church from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday. It is open to all students in the area, and serves kindergarten through 
eighth grade.

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