Free/low-cost individual tutoring, grades K-12.
Montclair Public Library, 50 South Fullerton Ave.
By ANTOINETTE MARTIN
Like any of us, I find it really hard to get up and going some mornings; the news of corruption, impeachment, school shootings are so brutal it pins me down and practically paralyzes me. I just feel helpless.
But then, I remember where I am going for the afternoon. I rise. I hurry to the third floor of the Montclair Public Library where I direct a team of volunteers at Succeed2gether’s after-school tutoring program. No one at S2G feels helpless. We are helpful: to each other, to our community of academic strivers, to our individual selves by doing something that so clearly makes a difference in this world.
The K-through-12 students from all over Essex County begin to stream in, eager and bouncy despite their gargantuan backpacks, or maybe already exhausted by their school days, but all willing to be revived with an hour of one-on-one attention to the work of learning. Also, by cookies. The letter-shaped cookies and chocolate cats at the tables each week contribute to reviving attitudes, for sure, and they form one sweet part of S2G tradition.
Succeed2gether was established a decade ago by Montclair community activist Marcia Marley. The aim then, as now, was to help eradicate the achievement gap for children whose families cannot afford the kind of academic support every child deserves. Since it was founded, hundreds and hundreds of students, volunteer tutors, board members, donors, and public and private school administrators have contributed to S2G’s ethos of collaboration to achieve success, one student at a time.
So many give so much, but I have the privilege of being in the room where the magic happens, Monday-Thursday, 3 to 6 p.m., and on Wednesdays 4 to7 — and witnessing what that giving generates in real time. I tell our S2G Board members that I wish I could concoct holograms of our library hours, so they could see, hear, and experience the scenes of us bonding like a family, the young faces at first confused that become images of concentration and the pure joy of epiphany. “Oh, I get it now!”
Alas, I’m no wizard. What I have are a few vignettes of recent vintage. I offer them in hopes of inspiring others to want to share, reap the rewards of what we do:
- Retired math teacher Heidi has been tutoring Ali-J for five straight years, and helped him amp up his grade in geometry last year to an A. This year, when Ali-J returned, they “caught up on life, classes, and then went right to work on studying for the next quiz in Algebra II,” Heidi said. Ali-J just grinned.
- High school-age tutor Matthew arrived a few minutes late one day to tutor second-grader Skylar. Matthew’s eyes were looking a bit red; it turns out he was fresh from taking two Advanced Placement tests, in Algebra and Art History. They got Skylar’s work done before he went home to collapse.
- High school-age tutor Safi has great grades, except she found chemistry challenging. We connected Safi, who works with second-grader Kayla, with her own tutor. Olivia tutors a younger child for S2G, too. She took chemistry last year. “My family hired a tutor for me when I found chemistry hard,” Olivia told Safi. “I brought the flashcards we made so we can use them to work together.”
- Passion, an S2G student since elementary school, is now a high school freshman. “This is bringing back such amazing memories,” said Passion, when she arrived to be a Book Buddy for a first-grader this year.
- David, Arielle, and daughter Olive tutor as a family. Sometimes Arielle’s mother joins them, too. Last year, they were paired with three children who attend an Arabic school, and had the whole S2G group entranced with their exciting math games. This year, they are set to begin work with another family, this one with roots in an African country. “We’ve missed it so-o-o much,” said Arielle. “It’s like there is a hole in our lives when S2G is not in session.”
- Marty started tutoring with us after he lost his wife. He and sixth-grader Luis have worked together for a couple of years. This year, when Luis brought a new book to read, he stumbled over a word on the first page. “No problem,” said Marty, pulling a paperback dictionary out of his book bag, and handing it to Luis. “This is yours now.”