Learning Together: Wheaties Work with Norton Youth throughout Fall 2015

Over the course of the Fall 2015 semester through the Office of Service, Spirituality, and Social Responsibility, Wheaton students spent more than 600 hours volunteering their time with students in the Norton Public Schools and the Norton Head Start. If volunteers were each paid the minimum wage for their services, then the total number of hours Wheaton students dedicated to the Norton Public Schools and Head Start in the past semester alone would amount to more than $5,500.

A team of 36 Wheaton students worked regularly with local youth; they tutored in the Wheaton Tutor Outreach Program in after school Homework Help programs, mentored at-risk high school youth, and promoted literacy for English Language Learners, homeless children, and students with disabilities as a part of the WheatonReads Literacy Program at Head Start.

Wheaton students who volunteered regularly (at least 1 hour each week) for an entire semester report having had the opportunity to enhance many different skills and develop new ideas about themselves and the world. Students reported having learned many things from improving their Spanish-speaking skills to learning how to work well in a team and with people who are different from themselves.

Many Wheaton volunteers found satisfaction in the ability to tie classroom material to real life application through their volunteer work. One elementary school volunteer explained, “The Education and Psychology classes I’ve taken at Wheaton allowed me to better understand some of the issues the students we work with face.” A Head Start volunteer “learned how much impact one person can have on a child’s education just by giving a little time each week.”

Another Head Start volunteer marveled over the new relationships she was able to build with our community partners. “I love working at Head Start! …Something I didn’t expect when I initially started working at Head Start was the relationship I developed with the teachers and administrators there. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them and it has been a valuable multifaceted experience; both working with the students and teachers.”

Norton Public School students also showed improvements throughout the Fall 2015 semester after having worked regularly with Wheaton students. We asked a small group of freshmen from Norton High School that worked regularly with Wheaton tutors to rate their confidence level regarding school on a scale from 1 (least confident) to 5 (most confident) before and after having worked with Wheaton tutors. The average confidence level of the high school freshman shot up from a 3 before working with Wheaton tutors to a 4.3 after working with Wheaton tutors. High School students from the same group also cited earning better grades, having clearer long-term goals, feeling more excitement to attend school, understanding difficult material, and just having “another person to trust” after working with Wheaton tutors. All Norton Public School students reported similar sentiments and feedback.

If any Wheaton students are interested in regularly volunteering in the Norton Public Schools, be sure to schedule an interview with Cassie Peltola during the first week of classes.