Multiplying their chances Tutors: A parent's concern leads to an after-school tutoring program at the Villages housing complex for children of Marley Elementary School.

March 19, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

Kimberly Johnson, 9, is frustrated. And it shows. She tosses a peeved look at her tutor as she struggles with 5-times-6, 6-times-4 and related mysteries that two other fourth-graders at her table in the community center of Villages at Marley Station have breezed through.

It does not help that one of them, Shayetta Barrington, is telling her, "It's easy." To this, Kimberly tartly retorts, "Be quiet." Shayetta, 9, giggles.

It's all part of the give-and-take that plays out Tuesdays and Thursdays during the after-school tutoring program at the low-income housing complex. Tutors include residents, apartment staff members, and teachers, principals and guidance counselors from Marley Elementary School, the Glen Burnie school most of the children attend.

The project, involving about 25 children from kindergarten through seventh grade, is the idea of Veronica Hall, a parent and resident of the red-brick complex on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard.

Hall, a resident assistant at the Villages, thought up the program in 1995 when one of her twins, Myisha Stephens, was having trouble with reading and math and Marley Elementary had no tutors to help.

Hall was running an arts and crafts program and expanded it to include tutoring. It took until September to assemble the program.

The tutoring "reinforces what they're getting in school," said Tami Mannheim, resident services coordinator for Housing Opportunities Unlimited, a Dorchester, Mass.-based company that provides resident services at the apartment complex.

Each session opens with "circle time," during which all of the children tell something about themselves, such as their favorite hobbies. Then they all head for their tutoring tables. The children, who use colored cubes or flash cards to learn math, are separated according to grade levels: kindergartners through first-graders; second- through third-graders; fourth-graders; and fifth-graders and higher.

On this day, at the fourth-graders' table, Connie Poussard, a guidance counselor at Marley Elementary, is tutor and mentor to Kimberly.

As Kimberly struggles with her multiplication tables, Poussard tells her that people learn at their own pace and in their own way.

"It's nothing to be ashamed of. That's how you learn. He learns a different way. She learns a different way. I learn a different way," Poussard says.

"I think you feel a little bad because they're getting it before you. Do not compare yourself to others. You tailor this to what you need to do."

With that encouragement, Kimberly proceeds to do her "six-times" tables in her head or on her fingers.

"See how you make things easy for yourself?" Poussard asks.

Kimberly, one cornrow dangling in her face, nods.

"Pat yourself on the shoulder, kiddo," Poussard tells Kimberley. "You just learned a few facts."

Pub Date: 3/19/97

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