Ky. Voices: Reward yourself by tutoring a student

Neil Chethik, director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington
Neil Chethik, director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington

Eric Case is a successful Lexington attorney who spends most days helping people buy real estate or deal with other legal matters. But "the most rewarding hour of my week," he says, is the time he spends tutoring a child at the Carnegie Center.

Teachers give their all to help our children succeed. But they can't do it alone. They need parents. They need volunteers. And they need tutors — men and women willing to help a child sound out some words, add up some numbers, and have some fun while learning.

At the Carnegie Center in downtown Lexington, we just finished registering 180 children for our low-cost tutoring program. The tutoring slots went like UK basketball tickets — swept up as soon as they were available. Almost all of these children are bright, enthusiastic and eager to learn. Most need just a little encouragement and direction.

That's where you could step in, as a tutor-mentor for one of these kids.

Being a tutor at Carnegie doesn't require experience; we'll train you and match you with a compatible student. It doesn't require a lot of time. Each tutoring pair meets weekly for one hour at Carnegie, usually between 3 and 7:30 p.m, on weekdays or between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, on Saturdays. And tutors can arrive empty-handed: we provide all the educational materials you'll need.

The rewards for both mentor and student are almost inevitable. The child gets better grades and grows in confidence. Both people get the satisfaction of a meaningful connection.

One mother told me that her 7-year-old child asks almost every morning, "Is today a Carnegie day?" That's the kind of anticipation that children feel when a grown-up devotes an hour to them without interruption.

I originally came to the Carnegie Center 15 years ago for a program that had nothing to do with tutoring. As I became a regular at the center, I began noticing all the adult-child pairs huddled together at tables, computers and desks. I could feel the intensity, hear the laughter, observe the hugs as the children left with their parents.

This year, I got inspired. I've decided to act. I am spending one hour a week helping a fourth-grade girl with reading and math. Would you like to mentor a child, too?