ST PETER — During Danielle Mangine’s freshman year at Gustavus Adolphus College, she signed up to volunteer with a tutoring program called Study Buddies.
The program, which pairs Gusties with students of all grade levels in St. Peter Public Schools, had quite an impact on Mangine.
For one hour per week, she worked with first- and second-grade students of Corie Walters at South Elementary on reading skills.
“I actually really loved the students I had,” she said. “That’s why I decided to apply for a leadership position.”
Now a junior, Mangine serves as the logistics coordinator the program, which kicked off for the semester Feb. 25 with orientation.
The program is designed to “complement St. Peter public education” and provide more focused attention to students that they can’t get in a larger classroom setting. Kindergarten through adult ESL students receive direct attention in any subject they need, even things as simple as “an extra hug or an extra pair of hands to tie shoes,” Walters said.
Walters said she’s had up to 16 Study Buddies in her class per semester, and the help isn’t just for students who have fallen behind. She has Study Buddies work with overachievers who need an added challenge as well.
“(They can) enrich and challenge them in a way that would be very hard for me to do as I am trying to instruct the rest of the class,” Walters said.
The program also helps Gustavus students by providing hands-on, meaningful volunteer opportunities for about 90 students at the service-learning based college.
Teachers fill out request forms for volunteer time slots and the specifics about the students and subjects needing tutoring. Study Buddies coordinators at Gustavus help fill those time slots based on the availability of student tutors.
Mangine said volunteer hours are flexible, and students can sign up for as few or as many that fit into their schedules. They also can specify areas of study they excel in.
There is an after-school program at South Elementary, and Study Buddies volunteers also work with students during school hours. Walters pulled students out of the classroom to work with Mangine for reading help, for example.
Mangine said she worked with several students who read below grade level, and last year she worked with a group of girls on book club reading.
“Ms. Walters always had instructions on what exactly we needed to do, (such as) timing their reading and marking words they can’t come up with on their own,” Mangine said.
Walters said she has never had a negative experience with the program.
“It is wonderful to have a working relationship with Gustavus,” she said. “Their students are responsible and respectful. They’re eager to help. In fact, they’ve told me (Study Buddy time) is one of the days they look forward to in the week.”
South Elementary Principal Darin Doherty said the program has been part of the district for many years, and when he taught sixth grade, he had the volunteers help in his classroom as well.
“We’re constantly trying to get the student-to-teacher ratio down,” he said. “It just benefits our students so much.”