September 21, 2019

Student athletes lend a helping hand

Nathan Shelton UrbanFUTURE

SCOTT LAYNE / The Journal
Senior baseball player Nathan Shelton tutors fifth grade student Kayla Lane at Froebel Elementary School on Feb. 8 in south St. Louis. Webster student athletes began volunteering for the UrbanFUTURE program at the start of the spring semester.

Webster University’s athletic department is chipping in to help elementary school children improve their reading and mathematics skills through a program called UrbanFUTURE.
At the start of 2011, Webster student athletes began tutoring children in the fourth and fifth grades at Froebel Elementary School.
“This program really embodies education and the honest approach to it,” said athletic director Tom Hart. “It’s part of what we believe, to give back to these children by lending a helping hand. This is part of what our mission statement stands for.”
According to UrbanFUTURE’s website, the organization believes all individuals have the right to achieve their full potential in order to better serve their community. The organization strives to ensure all students receive the personal attention of a mentor to help them develop. The program is available to all on an equal opportunity basis, and there is no charge for the students who participate in the program.
Hart said he became interested in getting involved with UrbanFUTURE when he heard about it through School of Education assistant professor Diane Cooper.
“We had been looking for years for a program that goes along with our honest education approach,” Hart said.
Volunteers are trained for about one hour before they begin tutoring at Froebel. Student athletes tutor once a week for five consecutive weeks, with each session lasting an hour and a half. All student athletes qualify to tutor in the program, but are not required to participate.
But Hart said the athletic department expects all student athletes to be involved with UrbanFUTURE by the end of the year.
Hart believes the student athletes will get as much out of the program as the children do.
“Our athletes are giving something back to the community,” Hart said. “They should feel good about that and get a sense of pride for what they are doing.”
Although the impact of the tutoring is yet to be determined, not all volunteers feel the program is working as well as it could.
“It’s a great effort by the athletic department, but I don’t think the results are going to be very good,” said senior tennis player Ryan Fassler. “I was trained in less than an hour and most of training was just about the program. It wasn’t about how to motivate these kids.”
Fassler said many of the children did not want to be there and were tired from being in school all day.
“I was trying to help, but they didn’t teach us theories or concepts, so it was difficult to teach them anything,” Fassler said. “A good amount of tutors were frustrated because of this.”
Student athletes previously worked in another program, called the “Homework Club,” for several years at Hudson Elementary School until the principal retired in 2004. The new principal did not continue the program, leaving Webster’s student athletes without a tutoring program until now.
UrbanFUTURE was launched at the start of the spring semester. Student athletes from Webster’s baseball, softball and men’s and women’s tennis teams were the first to tutor; those who volunteered recently completed their five-week session.
Players from the volleyball, men’s golf and men’s and women’s soccer teams began this week. Cross-country and track and field coach Dusty Lopez is looking forward to the end of spring break, when the program will start for his athletes.
“Hopefully, the student athletes will feel engaged and proud to be helping in the community,” Lopez said. “It also puts a great face on Webster athletics, something which is important when you look at lots of issues affecting Webster as a whole.”

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