Pitt's Homewood Community Engagement Center (Aimee Obidzinski)
The Gismondi Foundation has a strong interest in supporting the education needs of our young people. Therefore, we were proud to partner with the University of Pittsburgh in creating a new and innovative program known as PittEnrich. This program, which is based at Pitt’s Community Engagement Center in the Homewood section in the City of Pittsburgh, offers comprehensive in-school tutoring and a weekend education and activity program for elementary-aged children. Using a curriculum and education techniques designed by experts from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, the program utilizes 20 college students, most of whom are education majors with plans to become school teachers, to provide over 90 hours of hands-on tutoring in basic math and reading skills to third, fourth, and fifth graders at two elementary schools, Lincoln and Faison, located in the Homewood area. The tutors, all of whom are funded by The Gismondi Foundation, work hand-in-hand with individual classroom teachers and target those students most in need of extra attention.
“This is a great program, says John Gismondi, “because it addresses the two most important educational skills, math and reading, at the most critical time in a child’s development, their elementary school years. I believe in the old saying, ‘In elementary school you learn to read, so that in high school you can read to learn.’”
Pitt Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Community Affairs, Lina Dostillio, is quite proud of the program. “PittEnrich is truly a remarkable program. It meets kids where they are - - - literally and figuratively - - - providing both in-school and Saturday sessions. . . . The Gismondi Foundation helped us to bring PittEnrich to life, and the program would not be possible without their support.”
Carrie Finkelstein, manager of the program, echoes those sentiments, “PittEnrich is a mutually beneficial program that not only provides high quality small group math and reading tutoring to increase students’ academic achievement, but it also gives education majors serving as tutors the opportunity to develop their instructional skills. . . . Our students are excited to join us every week.”
Before starting their direct one-on-one work with young students, each of the PittEnrich tutors goes through customized training designed by the School of Education. That training allows the tutors to develop the tools and techniques needed to make them most effective when working directly with the students.
In addition to the in-school tutoring compartment, PittEnrich also includes a weekend program conducted on the premises of the Community Engagement Center. It features a morning and afternoon session, each of which includes a group of some 25 students working in small groups with tutors who lead them through a wide range of interesting, fun activities designed to grow their knowledge base and stimulate their thinking.
“I particularly like the weekend program,” says Lisa Gismondi, “because it combines education and play. It is not quite as structured as the in-class tutoring but at the same time it is helping the children develop both learning and social skills.”
Two-way transportation and nutritious snacks are also included for those who attend.
“We are just getting started with this program,” says John Gismondi, “but so far the results have been great. The students love it, and the teachers really appreciate the fact that their students are getting extra attention.”
“While we provide the funding for this program, a large part of the credit has to go to the people at Pitt, especially the Community Engagement staff and the Education Departments, because we could not do this without their know-how. The other critical element is the energy that the tutors bring to the children’s learning experience.”