Student tutors needy Ravenna youth

Kathryn McGonagle

Senior psychology major Sarah Shea does homework in Ravenna once a week, but not hers.

Shea tutors underprivileged youth, helping them excel in school and realize an alternative to living in poverty.

“Some need more help than others. Some need more guidance to help find their passion,” Shea said. “Everybody’s got potential.”

Shea volunteers at the Community Action Council’s Youth Center once a week while taking five classes and working as a secretary of the Sociological Collective. The Center provides school-aged kids, anywhere from elementary to high school, a safe place to go after school, where they can get help from tutors like Shea, Youth Center supervisor Kellie King said.

“We’re paid to be here, but I think it helps them to see that people care about them and take their time for them,” King said.

The center in Ravenna is open from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, but Shea only has one counterpart who comes on a regular basis.

Shea said she does this because of passion. Not just her passion, but the passions of the kids she helps. Be it astronomy, medicine, cooking or even math, she said she does this to help them find their passions and give them hope that they can pursue them.

King said she asks for volunteers to be consistent when giving their time because of the stability the children need to be able to find there, which they can’t at home.

“The kids do develop an attachment to you. They do start to care about you,” Shea said. “It’s hard because I’m only one person and there’s eight or nine kids all sitting there needing help. I jump back and forth, and what the kids are really looking for is a stable person they like to see each week.”

Every Wednesday at 4 p.m. Shea can be found at the center helping young students with anything from math, reading and science to just being an outlet for them to vent the frustrations of their lives.

The Community Action Council took over the Boys and Girls Club of Ravenna when its funding fell through, keeping the doors open for struggling youth, King said. The center is open to children and teens of any background or income level, but is mostly used by Ravenna School District students. This gives them an alternative place to go instead of being home alone, she said.

“There are certainly those that are less fortunate than I, and to understand that, I can really just dive into that, dive into their world and see what their lives are like,” Shea said.

She said the college student volunteers give the kids a glimpse of what college life is like because most don’t have role models who were able to seek out higher education.

“They see the camaraderie between the students, which gives them the opportunity to look forward to college,” King said.

Shea said she realized it was worth the time, effort and occasional frustration when a young girl having difficulty with addition and subtraction asked for her help. Using crayons and blocks, Shea taught her how to add, then how to subtract.

“You could see the wheels turning,” she said. “I’m not an education major, but seeing her use those skills was pretty neat.”

Liz Murray, vice president of the Sociological Collective, said Shea’s work is inspiring because the children don’t have many people willing to help them, and Shea commits her time and loyalty to them, expecting nothing in return.

“These kids are in a stage when their lives are kind of volatile or they don’t have someone at home for them all the time,” Murray said. “I think she’s an excellent role model for students.”

Murray said the center needs more volunteers like Shea, who are willing to not only tutor, but listen to the ups and downs in the children’s lives.

Shea wants to make helping people her life’s work and plans to keep doing what she’s doing after college.

“I like the impact and bringing out their potential,” Shea said. “Everyone’s got some kind of passion. Through the horrors and difficulties in life they face, like poverty, I try to bring their passions to light.”

Contact arts and sciences

reporter Kathryn McGonagle

at [email protected].