Educating the Next Generation

A Bradley student works with a child during an America Reads tutoring session. (Photo by Matt Hawkins)

Matt Hawkins
March 20, 2017

Bradley students build Peoria’s next generation as mentors in the University’s America Reads Tutoring Program. The program strengthens children’s reading and comprehension skills and encourages youth to value education through relationships with college role models.

Initiated by President Bill Clinton, America Reads has mobilized college students for two decades to promote literacy and academic success in American communities. Bradley students meet with Peoria-area children four nights a week on campus and at three locations in the city’s neighborhoods.

“This is an excellent opportunity to get off the Hilltop and meet people in the community,” said criminal justice studies major Brandon Sheraden ’18, of Rock Island. “It’s rewarding to get to know kids and their parents over time. As they’ve grown, they’ve taught me more than I expected.”

This year, more than 40 Bradley students are tutors. They meet with children twice a week in a variety of group and one-on-one settings. Tutors work with the same children for a semester, with pairs or groups often staying together beyond the first semester.

Even though tutors and children only see each other two hours a week, tutoring relationships develop into mentoring relationships over time. Those bonds foster success at multiple levels — from children grasping challenging academic concepts to shy youth developing confidence to come out of their shells.

“I can see the fascination in their eyes when they figure something out,” said Samantha Goodell ’18, a health science major from Bolingbrook, Illinois. “I’ve seen many kids grow through the amazing connections we’ve made. It’s wonderful to still get hugs from a girl I tutored for several semesters.”

Tutors also have opportunities to build relationships with children’s families. That contact reinforces lessons learned and gives tutors insight into what life issues may be affecting children at a given time.

“Every session is a challenge that keeps you on your toes,” Sheraden said. “You never know what kids will bring through the door, whether it’s a tough day at school, a new subject to learn or a day they’re glad to be there with you. It’s unpredictable, but I enjoy the challenge.”

Each breakthrough is a step toward a better future Bradley students take seriously.

“It’s important to set them up for success now,” Goodell said. “Because they’re our future co-workers and the next generation of leaders, we want them to have a strong foundation as they grow.”