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Tutoring program targets at-risk students

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
After practicing as a licensed counselor for many years, Telula Thornton of Hartselle knows the two most influential factors on a child's behavior are home life and academic achievement.
Through a cooperative effort with the Hartselle Police Department, Hartselle City Schools and local volunteers, Thornton hopes to help Hartselle's at-risk youth boost their academic performance and ultimately their self-esteem.
Thornton organized and began a weekly after school tutoring program for Hartselle's at-risk junior high and high school students in October. Students are referred to the program through school counselors and resource officers when behavior or academic issues become a recurring problem.
"It's not only a tutoring program, it's also somewhat of a mentoring program," HPD Chief Ron Merkh explained. "Mrs. Thornton knew about the HPD Junior Police Academy, held for its second year this summer, and thought the kids might need further guidance throughout the school year. So far, the tutoring program has been great because it gives our resource officers a good way to check on the progress of students throughout the year and gives parents an additional adult resource for helping their kids with homework or an extra ear to listen to problems they may have."
The tutoring program meets each Monday at 3:30 p.m. in the police training classroom at City Hall. The program currently serves nine students.
"We're hoping to expand and broaden our base of students," Thornton said. "I know there are more children in our town who could benefit from this program. In a matter of weeks, we've already seen one child's grades rise from an F to a C. As their grades improve, so does their self-esteem."
The program is free and totally voluntary for students and tutors. Volunteer tutors work one-on-one with students to address specific academic needs. The group of eight tutors includes a local youth minister, real estate, banking and accounting professionals, and retired citizens.
"All of our volunteers are just wonderful," Thornton said. "The schools, the city and the police department have been wonderful as well. We're all just here to help the kids. They have responded more than anything to the attention and love they receive here, which boosts self-esteem, raises academics and decreases the behavioral problems that brought them here in the first place."
To learn more about enrolling a student in the free tutoring program, or to volunteer time or materials, call Thornton at 773-8899, or a Hartselle school counselor.