A tutoring program is allowing Westfield High School students to help elementary school students on a weekly basis with their academic and social skills.
The program, known as Helping Hands, brings high school students to several elementary schools each week for 45 minutes after school and pairs them with elementary students, who have been identified as those who may need extra help with schoolwork or social skills. Helping Hands originally started as a club 10 years ago and then became a class for high school students two years ago, said Mark Ewing, a social studies teacher at WHS.
Ewing said the class is designated for juniors and seniors, who can take it up to two trimesters toward their service credit for graduation. In 2022, 26 students were a part of Helping Hands that brought them to three elementary schools within the district.
However, the popularity of Helping Hands has grown to 60 students and the total number of elementary schools that are visited each week, Ewing said.
“We go to five of the elementary schools in the district, and it’s the best representation of Westfield High School,” Ewing said. “They’re service-focused and they believe in our mission of others and they’re just great ambassadors of the awesome kids we have at the high school.”
Ewing said the focus of Helping Hands is to allow high school students “to serve a cause greater than themselves.”
“It’s really an opportunity for them to give back and pay it forward,” he said.
High school students provide tutoring services with their assigned elementary student with a focus on academics that can range from homework assistance to reading a book with them, while the second half of their visits are intended to be social with games, coloring and other activities.
“A lot of it is being a buddy and being a listening ear for the little kids,” Ewing said.
High school students are with the same elementary school students each week, which allows them to develop a strong bond with one another. Helping Hands is targeted to second- to fourth-grade elementary students and attempts are made to try to pair students who have similar interests, according to Ewing.
“A lot of it is just pairing them up on the first day and the relationships that they form is really, really special,” Ewing said.
WHS senior Jeny Castro said she got involved with Helping Hands as a junior and thought it would be a good opportunity to work with children. Castro is paired with Shamrock Springs Elementary School student Chloe St. Angelo, who is in third grade, and said she tries to have fun during her visits.
“I love building the connections with the kids and you get to see them every week,” Castro said.
Castro, who is considering majoring in interior design and early education in college, encourages her fellow high students to participate in Helping Hands.
“I think if you’re really passionate about teaching or just having someone else to be with, it’s a good opportunity to build a connection with someone,” Castro said.
Ewing lauded his students involved in the program who are working to help others.
“It’s just a special thing to be a part of and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done teaching,” he said.
About the program
Helping Hands is offered at five elementary schools within Westfield Washington Schools: Oak Trace, Shamrock Springs, Maple Glen, Monon Trail and Carey Ridge.
Each elementary school has a facilitator who identifies students who could benefit from the program and helps pair them with Westfield High School students.
Formore about Helping Hands, contact WHS teacher Mark Ewing by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.