Tutoring program unites football team, Wheeler School

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Just kidding! Our job is accurately covering the Brown community. Except on April Fools’ Day.

Every Wednesday, Matt Dudez ’10 enters one of the seventh-grade science classrooms at the Wheeler School and settles into a plastic chair next to Erin Spark, who says she loves Bunsen burners and equations.

The two huddle over a notebook filled with scribbles and doodles as they become engrossed in their weekly tutoring session, laughing and gesturing as they complete the day’s assignment.

The program is part of a new tutoring initiative instituted by Football Coach Phil Estes to “foster a close-knit, functional, necessary relationship between today’s youth and my athletically talented – but not always school-oriented – athletes,” he said.

Estes said he noticed low self-esteem among his players during recent practices, leading him to propose a way for his team to “get back in the game, both athletically and academically.”

The result was weekly tutoring sessions, when students such as Dudez go over problem sets or study for upcoming exams with the seventh graders.

“I frequently struggled in my chemistry class,” said Dudez, a 225-pound linebacker. “Going to Wheeler has helped me in a way that my TA never could.”

But new academic skills are not the only fruits of the new program.

“For sure, I mean, I definitely think I’ve made friends with my tutor,” Dudez said. “She made me see the importance of balancing equations for real.”

Spark shared the sentiment. “I think Matt is really improving,” she said. “He might be able to do well on the next test if he thinks about it a lot.”

Since the program began last month, Estes said he has noticed a marked improvement in his players’ confidence.

“They’re doing well in their classes now,” he said. “I only hope the middle-school students can learn something from our physically strapping guys, too.”

Just kidding! Our job is accurately covering the Brown community. Except on April Fools’ Day.