The Wire @ WPI Online
VOLUME 13, NO. 2     NOVEMBER 2000

Hoop Dreams makes college a reality for local youngsters

Some of last year's participants pose for the camera

Forming connections between schoolchildren and college students has been the goal of Hoop Dreams for four years. This year, WPI's community outreach program received a new vote of confidence when it received a $1,200 Massachusetts Promise Mini-Grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance. The money was combined with support from the Worcester Rotary Club to help underwrite activities.

Organized by Minority Student Affairs and Outreach Programs and by humanities and arts Professor William Baller, Hoop Dreams helps inner-city kids become interested in higher education by emphasizing health and fitness as well as academic help. From November through April, student volunteers from EMSEP (Excellence in Mathematics, Science and Engineering Program) and Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity meet with 10- to 13-year-old youngsters from Worcester's Friendly House on Monday and Thursday evenings.

Tutoring in math and science in Kaven Hall is followed by a variety of activities, sports and special events in Harrington Auditorium. Last year's program featured a Native American drumming program, a LEGO(R) building competition, swimming and basketball, and a holiday pizza party. The program concluded with a two-day visit to campus by Friendly House students, who took part in basketball clinics and a computer workshop and viewed a robotics demonstration. The program's capstone was an awards ceremony in the Lower Wedge.

"We work with the kids and mentor them," says EMSEP member Kelly Jaramillo '02, one of the volunteers. "I've taught several kids their multiplication tables and we've had spelling bees and math contests. We want to document this experience to see if what we do improves their test scores in math and science, but overall we just want to see an improvement in these kids' attitudes toward school and to help them reach beyond the limitations they may impose upon themselves."

Bill Baller makes a Hoop Dreams connection

"The main thing is to be a role model so that they know what they can achieve in life," adds Lambda Chi Alpha's Matt Hodson '02, who sees his own reflection in the children he helps. "I grew up in the same circumstances as these kids," he says. "My mother raised me and my two brothers by herself. Without my teachers and other role models, I wouldn't be here right now. I think that being around college students helps them become motivated to be all they can be."

Hodson saw positive changes early in last year's program. "In the beginning no one wanted to do homework, they just wanted to hop on the computers or run around," he says. After a few weeks they started right in on the homework with their tutors. "You can see how they mature over the course of four or five months," says Hodson. "It's because there are 20 older people around them who care for them, who are there for them when they need help."

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Last modified: Dec 12, 2000, 09:38 EST