Rhodes Students Making a Difference at Shasta Central

an image of a child being tutored by a college student
The tutoring center

Thanks to a special connection between Rhodes and a local community center, students within the Rhodes Learning Corridor are seeing a big difference in their academic performances.

For the first time ever, all 15 incoming first-year service scholars in the Bonner Program are performing their service work as tutors at Shasta Central Community Center. Shasta Central, located just north of the Rhodes campus, is run by Rhodes Learning Corridor Coordinator Liaison Dorothy Cox. As a staff of one, Cox is solely in charge of facility management, making it hard for her to engage with each individual student on a regular basis. “This extra help allows me to teach more leadership development classes to students, stakeholders, and community partners,” says Cox.

Shasta Central provides tutoring four days a week at various times for children ages 4 to 18. The Rhodes students work between eight and 10 hours per week, and are assigned between one and three students to tutor. Tutoring sessions are free and cover everything from reading and writing to science and math. The requests for tutoring come from neighborhood schools such as Springdale Elementary School, Memphis Business Academy Charter, and Star Academy Charter Schools.

But the work Rhodes students do is much more than just tutoring. It’s also about relationship building and trust. “The real heroes are the Rhodes students,” says Cox. Students like Shanbria “Shay” Webster ’20, Pooja Shah ’20, and Taylor Bass ’20—to name a few—are the foundational leaders of the tutoring program, she notes.

Bass hopes to be a teacher one day, and having the opportunity to work in a hands-on environment tutoring allows her to gain real-life experience that will inform her career for years to come.

“As a tutor, I usually assist with whatever homework the kids may have that day,” she says. “When we're done with homework, I'll ask them what they're having troubles with at school, no matter the subject. I love volunteering, because it's always been my passion to work with kids in some way.”

Parents and guardians are seeing their children grow and thrive at Shasta Central.

“When I contacted Ms. Cox to get some assistance for my granddaughter, Jazlyn, she advised me that Shasta Central could provide her with tutoring,” says Faye Clear. “Shasta has really been an inspiration for her, and her grades have improved. She's gained new friends from other walks of life. She's always eager to come because she receives great one-on-one help. Shasta has helped her with her confidence to ask questions if she needs to. The most impressive part is the assistance and guidance she receives from her tutor, Taylor. All the students from Rhodes College are just wonderful.”

Melody Reed has a niece in the program, Eboni Jenkins, who has also made big strides in the program. "I have seen an improvement in Eboni's grades since being enrolled at Shasta. She really loves her mentors!" 

Jocelyn Vazquez ’20 works with Latino families utilizing the program and puts both the children and families she serves right at ease.“The children see Jocelyn and they open up immediately,” says Cox. “We always try to find good matches for our tutors and tutees.”

Bonner Center for Service Director Shannon Hoffman sees Shasta Central as a place where students can take off their masks and share their joys and pains in an open setting. “Shasta Central provides a space where we have opportunities to see the humanity in another person by getting to know their story,” she says.

The role of Rhodes students isn’t limited to tutoring. Shah created policies and procedures for tutors coming into the program, which outlines job descriptions, duties, and responsibilities. With the current enrollment and more families showing interest, coming up with policies and procedures is integral to the success of the program going forward.

“I love teaching and tutoring children at Shasta Central for many different reasons, but mostly for those special ‘aha’ moments when the light bulb goes off and the students are truly understanding the material we are covering,” says Shah. “I love watching the students grow and become more self-confident as students, readers, mathematicians, problem solvers, and people. Everyone needs to know that someone believes in them.”

Shah acknowledges that she and the other service scholars are not only tutors, but also mentors, role models, and most importantly, friends for their young pupils.

“We all learn differently, in different ways, and at different times," she notes. “A student may be a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner. Some are a combination of all three types of learning styles. I have made it my job as an educator to determine how each of my students learn best, and to teach them strategies that they can use to help them achieve their full academic potential. I engage with children from different walks of life in a variety of subjects. My main goal is to advance the educational and personal growth of the students.”

Since 2007, Shasta Central has served more than 300 students and their families. With many challenges and roadblocks encountered along the way, kindness has always been, above all, the most important ingredient for success. “Kindness is my core virtue,” Cox notes. “It’s all about inclusion, listening, kindness, and the willingness to serve mankind.”

“We want to be as helpful as we can now and down the line to the children and families we serve,” Hoffman adds. If you’d like to volunteer or learn more about Shasta Central, please contact Shannon Hoffman at hoffmans@rhodes.edu.

By Jeff Hulett