When third through sixth graders see IU students, they light up. They sit down with the IU students and focus. These IU students are tutors and role models for children in Brown County schools.
About a year and a half ago, Patricia Krahnke, Brown County Literacy Coalition Tutor Program coordinator, sent out an email to IU about tutoring students at Brown County schools.
“Our kids here love the college students,” Krahnke said.
The program was created to help college students understand the connection between college students and third through sixth graders through service and research. It also gives the younger students role models they may not have at home.
“Our kids are desperate for the kind of support that only these college students can provide them,” Krahnke said.
Although they have some retired Brown County residents tutor, she said the Brown County coalition recognized a need for more. They wanted tutors who would benefit from tutoring, so she reached out to IU.
She said these tutors are some of the few people who actually show up in the younger students’ lives. Because they are younger, the IU students are able to connect with the children on a level older people are not able to.
Brown County Intermediate School principal Trent Austin said he has seen an improvement in grades since the program has been implemented at his school a year ago. Not only are they doing better in school, but he said he sees more confidence in them.
Austin sees the IU students as mentors who give the kids a chance to advocate for themselves with the one-on-one attention.
“I’m really happy with how the program has served our students,” Austin said.
Still, one of the problems with the program right now is transportation for IU students to get to Brown County schools.
Just two weeks ago, the program received a grant, which is going toward transportation. This has taken the shape of IU Motor Pool vehicles that have nine seats including the driver, who is also a student tutor. Two of these vehicles travel on Tuesdays and another two travel on Wednesdays from the IU campus to Brown County schools.
“This is a huge deal,” Krahnke said.
Although there aren't enough tutors to fill the seats yet on either Tuesday or Wednesday, she hopes to expand the program next semester.
Assistant professor Angela Chow, who is helping coordinate the research done by some students, said it’s too soon to discuss the research component. She looks at the program more as a service project rather than research.
Krahnke said she hopes this program will go on for multiple years, and eventually she would like for tutors to be able to follow the students into their high school careers.
“We want our children — our rural children — to have the best shot at a productive, fulfilled and healthy adult life as possible,” Krahnke said.