BYU students volunteer weekly at local elementary schools

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Photo courtesy of Tyler Lewis
BYU students volunteer to tutor local students. There are opportunities to tutor in several subjects.

Every week Kyle Hill walked into Provo Peaks Elementary he looked forward to spending an hour painting and drawing pictures with the children. He wasn’t an average member of the classroom, however, but was there to help students with mental disabilities in their art class through the TOPS program.

The TOPS program, which stands for Tutor Outreach Provo Schools, is a program based out of the Y-Serve office in the Wilkinson Center on campus. BYU students can sign up to volunteer at a local school in the Provo School District.

“It’s a very easy way to serve,” said Hill, a program director for the TOPS program. “You only have to commit to one hour a week for ten weeks. Every BYU student should try it.”

Students can sign up to volunteer at Dixon Middle School, Provo High School or any of the elementary schools in the district. Each school provides different tutoring options. Students can tutor children in math, art, chess and special education, or play with kids in gym class.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Lewis
BYU students volunteer to tutor local students. Some of the schools are even in walking distance from BYU.

“I tutored third grade students in math at Timpanogos Elementary,” said Matt Gulbrandsen, another TOPS program director. “I enjoyed it a lot. I basically just went from table to table helping those who were struggling.”

For those who speak Spanish, French and Chinese, some of the schools offer dual immersion programs where students can volunteer.

“I don’t know (if) the volunteers understand the difference they are making in our school,” said Elizabeth Molinaro, the volunteer coordinator at Provo Peaks Elementary. “Volunteers help the student-to-teacher ratio go from 30-to-1, to 6-to-1. It changes the kids’ educational experience.”

Molinaro has a son with high-functioning autism who attends Provo Peaks Elementary, and because of volunteers, he is able to get the attention he needs to succeed. When volunteers are in the classroom he doesn’t need to spend time in a resource class.

Photo courtesy of Tyler Lewis
BYU students volunteer to tutor local students. Volunteers only spend one hour of their week to tutor.

“Tutors are very helpful because sometimes they are able to give a different perspective than the teacher on something that may help a child understand a subject better,” Molinaro said.

Molinaro has seen one student change his profession after volunteering at the school because he realized he loved to be in the classroom with the kids.

“Being a part of the TOPS program is very rewarding,” Hill said. “It is exciting to see students grasping the concepts and getting those ‘A-ha!’ moments.”

Students who want to volunteer at a school can go to yserve.byu.edu and look for the TOPS tab under the Programs drop-down menu.

“It’s very organized,” Gulbransen said. “It’s only one hour a week, and you can do more if you want to.”

“There are lots of options,” said Phillip Stanfield, another program director. “You can volunteer during or after school hours.” Stanfield volunteered in the past at Wasatch Elementary, helping out in the sixth grade gym class.

Stanfield, a junior studying exercise science, recognized that volunteering helped him in his own life as well. “It was a good way to de-stress from school and it was really fun to hang out with the kids and watch them enjoy it.”

Photo Courtesy of Tyler Lewis
BYU students volunteering to tutor local students. Opportunities are available to tutor at elementary schools, middle schools and high schools.

For BYU students taking American Heritage, the TOPS program is a great solution for the service requirement. Pear Park Elementary, Wasatch Elementary and Provo High School are all within walking distance of BYU.

“It makes all the difference in the world,” Molinaro said.

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