Veteran Tutoring Program
Working with VISTA volunteers, Arab American Family Services (AAFS) is reaching out to veterans to help them as they return from service in the Middle East. They often do not have jobs to return to, and thus need public benefit support and turn to AAFS. They are also a valuable resource to Arab American children in middle school and high school as they can relate to the culture and may know some of the language. AAFS is matching them up with students who need tutoring, creating a win-win situation for both the veterans and the students.
AAFS will create a tutoring program that will incorporate soldiers, youth, and community members. The project is as follows: AAFS will build a project that is mutually beneficial to Arab American youth as well as American Soldiers/families. As Veterans come home and need to be reintegrated into their communities, one way is to help children who are struggling in school due to language and cultural barriers with which these veterans are familiar, having just finished their tour of duty.
AAFS wishes to explore through VISTA members if veteran soldiers are interested in offering their services as tutors in our tutoring program. In this endeavor it is hoped that the project will be beneficial for many different components not just for the child being tutored but also for the veteran who is interacting with the student and community. The Arab children as well as the veterans will interact with each other in a positive manner that will break down the fear, anger, and misunderstanding and create an opportunity for both to communicate and to better understand and interact in a positive way with each other through this project.
In this project, four VISTA members will be responsible for identifying the schools which need the tutoring program, recruiting veterans who will be responsible for tutoring Arab American children in need of assistance, developing the paperwork that will encompass the tracking system for both student progress and tutor hours, and developing or finding a curriculum that will address the needs and concerns of the participating schools.
There have been a number of accomplishments associated with the first year of the program. The VISTA member and the Director of Development met with Erica Borggren, Director of Illinois Veterans Affairs. VISTA has tried to meet with her over several occasions. AAFS held a Veterans’ Day dinner. More than 50 organizations attended the dinner at which they learned about the tutoring program being proposed. Also at the dinner, were government legislators who also learned about the program. Another accomplishment can be seen in the building of trust by talking to smaller groups of veterans. This trust led several veterans to come to the agency to get assistance in receiving public benefits. On the education side of the project, AAFS already has four schools interested in the tutoring program, and 30 students identified to start with. The schools have agreed to provide the tutoring space for the project as well. Finally, one veteran is interested in tutoring and is qualified to do so. Fifteen other veterans were interviewed.