Monday, October 13, 2008

The Big Idea

So, I’m going on my third month in site. I’m still in the observing/integrating phase of my Peace Corps service – arguably the most important part of service. However, I’m eager to get started on some more “peace corpish work.” Up until now, as I’ve shared with you previously, I’ve been spending some mornings going out with the nurses from the health center during their vaccination controls. This has been a great way to get to know the people in the more rural parts of town. I’ve also spent some time at the schools in these rural areas. It’s the time I’ve spent at the schools that got me thinking about “the big idea.”

Here’s the idea: start a tutoring program. Sounds basic and easy, right? Well, in some ways it is. I envision it this way (and this is how I’m going to sell it to the Director of the high school):

• professors from the high school (includes middle school) will create a list of students that get high marks in all of their work

• professors from the elementary school will create a similar list only with students that are falling behind or require extra help

• we will create an incentive for the high school students that participate in the tutoring program (not sure what this will be)

• during the school vacation (begins in November) I will work with some professors to “train” those high school students that are interested in being a part of the program

• we will start a pilot program when the new school year starts in February
Anyway, I envision the students coming to the municipality to do the tutoring in one of the conference rooms. I can take turns with some professors to supervise the sessions and a handful of professors (hopefully) from both the high school and elementary schools can work with their respective students to ensure that the sessions are going smoothly.

This idea is in its infancy and there are a gazillion different things to still be worked out. One thing that I’m hoping to come out of this program is the idea of volunteer or community service work. Most people want to do work that they will be paid for. With a shortage of jobs and the realities of poverty all around us, that is not very surprising, but I’m hoping that once students become involved in the program, the feeling of helping others will become enough to keep it going. I think the incentive will help and I’m thinking that it can be something really productive though fun like participating in a Peace Corps workshop for youth. These are often in interesting locations (and young people rarely get to leave their towns) and are a first opportunity for most to mingle with like-minded people of their same age. The workshops are also something that they can use on their resumes. Another possible incentive may be assistance for university (a small grant) or a gift of school supplies. Hopefully, the incentive will be enough to get them in the door but the experience will keep them involved and interested.

The logistics that need to be worked out are innumerable and I’ve also got to get the Director of the elementary school on board. And then of course, I’ll need some professors from both schools on board as well. The program will only succeed if students can be convinced it’s worth their time – and that goes for the tutor and tutored. I’ll be meeting with the Director of the high school this week and will go from there. Wish me luck…