By Gwendolyn Purdom
Youngsters receive one-on-one support through University’s Maroon Tutor Match Program
Abraham Potts struggled his freshman year at Perspectives Charter Academy. But when the University of Chicago’s Maroon Tutor Match program paired him with UChicago student Meera Santhanam, things started to click. Four years of working with Santhanam later, Potts’ grade point average has improved by more than a full point, he was recognized by the Neighborhood Schools Program with an “Excellence in Academic Achievement” award, and he now plans to pursue a career in pharmaceutical engineering.
“It changed the way I looked at learning,” Potts said during a recent interview with host Dr. Damon T. Arnold on WVON’s America’s Heroes Group show. “When I was in tutoring with Meera, she taught me the skills that my teachers tried to teach me — and I would learn the skills in one session.”
Founded by a UChicago student in 2015, Maroon Tutor Match (MTM) is a University student-driven initiative that provides affordable one-on-one tutoring to K-12 students from the University’s neighboring South Side communities. The program annually provides 400 South Side youth with individualized tutoring, that on average, results in a full letter-grade increase in the subject being tutored.
Students and tutors typically work together for two to three hours per week, and families pay $14 per hour. Scholarships are also available and nearly half of the 200 families the program has served over the past year have received that assistance.
Santhanam, who is now a senior at the University and serves on the MTM student leadership team, says tutoring Potts has been one of the most meaningful parts of her years at UChicago.
“Working with Abe has definitely been the highlight of my college experience,” Santhanam told Arnold during the America’s Heroes Group broadcast. “It’s been really exciting for me to get to watch him transform and develop those passions. That made me want to commit my career to public service. I want to become a public interest attorney, and I think a lot of that is because of my experience with Maroon Tutor Match.”
As students have adjusted to remote learning, support from their MTM tutors has been more important than ever. Potts now sees Meera through virtual sessions as much as possible to stay on track during an uncertain time.
“We really had to be quick on our feet and creative with our partners and with our parents, and we shifted all of our services to a virtual model,” Brandi Snodgrass, Director of Neighborhood School Partnerships in the University’s Office of Civic Engagement, told Arnold. “Our schools are working tirelessly to develop their instructional plans, their plans to reopen — so the work that Meera is leading along with the Maroon Tutor Match student leadership team has truly been a godsend to a lot of communities and a lot of individual students in need of support.”
MTM is part of UChicago’s Neighborhood Schools Program (NSP) within the Office of Civic Engagement. The program currently has a waitlist but is still accepting applications.
To learn more about MTM and apply online, visit nsp.uchicago.edu or email [email protected].