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Math Mentors for New American Children

As any educator will tell you, math proficiency can make or break a student’s chances of succeeding in school – and making it through high school. Mathematics is often a major barrier, particularly for New Americans settling into the community and adjusting to an entirely new culture and educational system. The need is great indeed. The key, according to experts, is to address it early – by the second and third grade levels.

NeighborKeepers, a local non-profit which engages the community to serve and support our neighbors in need of resources, meaning, and friends, is taking on the challenge in Winooski where math scores are particularly low. With the help of AARP, St. Michael’s College and the Winooski School District, a Math Mentoring Program will kick off this fall aimed at grade school children of refugee families who may be struggling with math.

“Success in math by second grade is critical for future successes in school,” said NeighborKeepers director Hal Colston. “The overall outcome for this project is to create a meaningful relationship between the mentor and the mentee’s family so the student develops the attitude that math is fun while they develop the competencies to excel in math.”

St. Michael’s College graduate students and volunteers from the community will work to engage the families and the children in a way that compliments what is being taught in the classroom.

From Sept. to Dec., math mentors will be thoroughly trained in a course designed by St. Michael’s College Professor Tim Whiteford and coordinated with the Winooski Elementary School math curriculum.

Beginning in January, these mentors are matched with students and will use various math games and activities to engage the families and reinforce how to see math in the real world. “We believe this is a model that will build and reinforce a connection between parents and their child’s school while giving these young students a real chance to succeed as they advance toward high school,” said Colston.

Currently, the Winooski Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization has no direct participation from New American families.

Lend a Hand

Volunteers from the local community are needed to make this pilot program a success and make a real difference in a child’s future. No formal math or education training is needed.

“What is needed is a commitment to complete the training and stay with a child through the school year,” he said. “It is a very hands-on form of community service and one that can be extremely fulfilling to those willing to share some of their time and energy.”

To find out more go to or call (802) 264-4816.

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