School is in full bloom in Santa Monica with the rigors of classroom workloads now hitting students. On top of in-class curriculum, students are saddled with homework on a bevy of subjects. Seeking academic help can be difficult; maybe the student is shy? Maybe mom and dad don’t exactly remember what the heck a polynomial equation is. What’s a young student to do?
The City of Santa Monica’s L.E.A.R.N. (Learn, Excel, Achieve and Read Now) program seeks to be a haven for students, providing tutoring.
“The need for this program has been there,” Sylvia Cisneros, founder of LEARN and Pico library branch manager said. She founded the free after-school tutoring program late last year to provide homework help and more to first through eighth graders.
The program not only helps students with their school subjects but helps parents in many ways as well.
“A lot of parents are asking for help for their children, but they need help, too,” she said. “There are barriers of language and learning, or the parent works late and can’t help their child. We’ve made it our goal to make this a strong program for everyone.”
Anastasia Shevkolenko, a third-grader at Roosevelt Elementary, has been going to the program for about a month now.
She was enrolled in the program by her mother, Sofia, due to having problems with math.
Sofia shared Anastasia’s same problem, too. The elder Shevkolenko, who works full-time in the medical field, joked that she needed as much help as her daughter with some of the algebra she was dealing with.
“When I can’t explain to my daughter something, its confusing for both of us,” she said. “My daughter will say, ‘Mom you’re not right, teacher shows me other ways’ and it got difficult. So this program — quiet, a lot of help — is an excellent idea.”
At either of the program sites — Pico or Main library — you’ll find desks huddled close together with labeled school subjects. Volunteers ranging from retired teachers to high schoolers help students sign up for a subject they’re working on and are then paired with a tutor whose strength is in the chosen subject.
Students and tutors are paired for 20-minute sessions and are welcome to take on as many sessions as possible (within the program’s operating hours) to finish an assignment or get a better understanding of their subjects.
Cisneros says attendance is steadily increasing, starting out late last year with “a dozen students on a good day” to now averaging around 35 students per session.
“This first year was more of a trial to see how it works,” Cisneros said. She added that the program wouldn’t be possible without volunteers, who she says are the lifeblood of L.E.A.R.N.
“They don’t need to be here but they are. They work hard and give great feedback, too.” She added that volunteers have provided many ideas that have shaped the program, such as the labeling of desks and flash-round style tutoring.
Cisneros is slowly expanding the program, partnering L.E.A.R.N. with several schools and hopefully opening more locations as students begin to stack up on program days. No matter what size the program grows to, Cisneros said the program’s mission of helping the community will always come first.
“Children are coming out of the library with their homework completed, talking to parents who are relieved… this is student success. L.E.A.R.N. helps a community that needs it. It makes me happy that we can provide this for Santa Monica.”
The LEARN program takes place at the Main Library Mondays & Wednesdays 3:30 p.m. -6:00 p.m. and at the Pico Library Tuesdays & Thursdays 3:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.