Police-turned-tutors help students make the grade

December 29, 1992|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff Writer

When Ramono Brown, a fifth-grader at Freetown Elementary School, is stumped by a math or spelling problem, he knows to whom to turn -- Officer Joe.

"Officer Joe is really nice, he helps me with my multiplication and division," the 10-year-old said. "He comes to Freetown all the time."

Officer Joe Hatcher, who works days as a patrolman at the Northern District station, is one of about a dozen county police officers who donate their off-duty time twice a week at the after-school tutoring program at Freetown Elementary.

"The big thing is that it helps bring the kids' grades up," Officer Hatcher said of the program that began this fall. "The kids show us their report cards. We have given them pride in themselves and their community."

About 70 students at the school in the public housing project participate in the program after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. From 3:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., they pile into the school gym and sit at tables with their classmates.

They use work sheets, games and other teaching aids to hammer out problems in math and other subjects. Teachers at the school also volunteer to work with the children.

"It reinforces what they are doing in the classroom," said Rose Tasker, assistant principal. "They play games, do homework or just read."

On a recent Tuesday, students worked on addition and multiplication problems with the help of teachers and a path of boxes drawn on work sheets. A number was written next to each box.

A teacher held up a card with a number and either a multiplication or addition sign.

The students were to add or multiply the numbers on the card with the numbers on the page and write their answers in the corresponding boxes.

"An adult will give you the correct answers when you are finished," Officer Hatcher said, adding some incentive.

The students who completed their work correctly and were well-behaved would receive pencils and miniature Drug Enforcement Agent badges from Detective Dennis Howell.

The tutoring program is part of the county Police Department's Freetown Youth program that also sponsors summer activities for children up to age 18 in the neighborhood.

Police hope that by returning to the community during off-duty hours they will provide positive role models for children and motivate them to stay away from drugs. The program also serves to improve police-community relations, said Officer Gordon March, who started the program last summer.

"Nearly all confirmed adult criminals start their careers as juvenile offenders," Officer March said, noting that children need to be provided with opportunities and alternatives to drugs.

"I want to be able to show these kids that we do care about their future," he said.

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