Seeking to assist struggling elementary, middle and high school students in Spokane, Whitworth tutoring and mentoring program Reinforcing the Importance of Support in Education (RISE) kicked off the year with a goal of attaining 100 tutors and mentors. Just a few weeks into the semester, the program met that goal. In its second year, RISE was founded just last year by former student Elise Van Dam. She launched the first site at Northwood Middle School with a small group of other college students.
Since then, Van Dam’s idea has evolved into a full-fledged program, supported by Whitworth’s Center for Service Learning and Community Engagement.
Although the program has a short history, the RISE staff set a high goals for number of members this year in comparison with the total number of members last year.
They raised the bar to a year-long goal of 200 members, aiming for 100 members each semester, Program Manager Zanovia Clark said.
“I would describe RISE as a tutoring mentoring program that heavily focuses on just service through building positive relationships,” Clark said. “That’s our ultimate goal.”
Members of RISE seek to build relationships while helping students achieve their highest potential in all areas of life, Clark said.
“Last year, we had 120 volunteers at our peak, somewhere in February,” said Andrew Pearce, recruitment and community partner specialist. “We did that in three weeks [this year].”
Reaching 100 members in a semester represents more than achievement of a goal for the RISE staff. A pool of 100 members will provide the base for 20 tutors and mentors to visit both high school sites and about 10 to visit most middle and elementary school sites, Pearce said.
“It’s a good handful of people that are going into these schools, like a small Whitworth class size,” Clark said. “It’s almost like freshmen seminars — we have 10 different freshmen seminars walking into these schools and making an impact.”
Leaders of RISE have been pushing for growth in response to two basic community issues. The first is the high dropout rate in Spokane schools, Pearce said. The other issue lies in the complacency and comfort of many students at Whitworth, who do not always feel the need to reach out beyond campus.
“We have students who hide behind what some call the pinecone curtain,” Pearce said. “They never know what Spokane is. They’re scared of Spokane — they refer to it as Spo-Compton. That’s also a serious need.”
Some students involved in RISE have enjoyed their time serving in the schools, whether their time in the program is two months or two years.
“I started the last week of September,” freshman Bryan Xiong said. “Honestly, if I put myself in the shoes of the high schoolers, I actually feel really blessed, because I wasn’t offered blessings like that when I was in high school — to have someone in college help you.”
The RISE staff and leadership hope the program continues on its path of growth to widen its area of influence on local students in need, Clark said.
“We’re here to stay. We’re run out of the service learning department, and it’s not a program that’s going to go away,” Pearce said. “This is a permanent, ongoing thing — student-led, but it’s student-paid staff. That means it gets to keep going.”
Daniel Lee Staff Writer
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