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Community unity adding up for local middle school students

Beaufort County community groups and area college students are lining up to help local middle school students who have struggled more than usual with their math studies since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The program is the brainchild of Alvin Powell, founder and president of the Inner Banks STEM Center. Tutors will include students from Eastern Carolina University and Beaufort County Community College. Up to 25 middle school students will be chosen for the program, which is open to Spanish-speaking students as well as those who speak English. Virtual tutoring sessions will last about 45 minutes, once or twice a week.

“Many students, especially high risk students and those who face socioeconomic challenges, who are feeling the effects of isolation and possibly have little support at home, were already struggling with mathematics during the regular school season. Online learning since the pandemic has made students’ in-person contact with their math teachers difficult if not impossible. This problem is even more complicated for students whose primary language is not English,” Powell said. 

Prospective tutors, some of whom are bilingual, are currently waiting for the results of mandatory background checks. Those who pass them will be authorized to contact parents and get tutoring started for these students. STEM Center board members have expressed happy anticipation regarding the benefits of the program. “We are so excited about the idea. We love helping the STEM Center and supporting Alvin,” said Dr. Tarek Abdel-Salam who, as well as being a STEM Center board member since 2016, has worked at ECU since 2003. He currently serves as Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy and Associate Dean for Research at ECU’s College of Engineering and Technology, where several collegians have volunteered to be tutors. BCCC president Dr. Dave Loope, also a member of the STEM Center board or directors, is recruiting tutors there as well.

“I reached out to my students, some from honor societies and other student associations, and encouraged them to engage in the success of students and communities,” Abdel-Salam said regarding his part in recruiting the tutors. “Virtual sessions are something we are very familiar with. We know how to be efficient in delivering online services, are familiar with software and delivery, and ready to do the tutoring. Online technology is giving us an opportunity to participate with more students.”

Flyers about the program are being distributed by local groups including United Way of Beaufort County, Cornerstone 21st Century Learning Center, AmeriCorps STEM East, and Beaufort County NAACP. “We need to locate these students, because online classes have resumed and we only have four months to help them before the school year ends,” Powell said. “This program will provide a free resource that parents can use to help their students keep up, not fall behind in their math classes, not lose their self-confidence in dealing with math-related subjects and, eventually, possibly even qualify for the kind of science, technology, engineering and math related jobs we support at the STEM Center.”

Space is limited for Beaufort County middle school students who are interested in the tutoring. Parents and legal guardians of those who need this opportunity may call 252-414-6964, which is a dedicated number exclusively for the tutoring program.

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