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Article - UNO scholars providing mentoring encouragement and hope

UNO scholars providing mentoring, encouragement and hope

Students love mentoring and tutoring kids at the Hope Center for Kids

Posted: jue, abr 7, 2011

It's a Monday. School's out.

About a dozen kids have come to the Hope Center for Kids in north Omaha to talk with tutors who aren't much older than they are.

Kids talk about their social lives. The first task for Takijah Collins, one of the tutors, is to turn their attention back to homework.

"They need a little push to get there," Takijah says. "After school, they all want to talk about what happened, who's doing what."

One girl forgot the book she needs for an English assignment. Takijah helps her find a way to finish it.

Takijah, 23, is majoring in secondary education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She loves math and Spanish.

She loves teaching these kids.

She is one of nine UNO College of Education students who are this year's Northern Natural Gas scholars. As part of their NNG scholarship, they must tutor kids at the Hope Center, a place of faith and fun and hope in the heart of a high-crime, low-income area just north of downtown.

"You have some kids who are really high achievers, top-of-the-line, straight-A students," Takijah says, "and you have some who need a little help just to get by. Those are the ones I like to spend the most time with because I feel like I can do the most good."

Northern Natural Gas scholars come from diverse ethnic backgrounds. They share a willingness to teach in underprivileged communities and in communities with diversity, like the Hope Center.

Sarahi Real y Vasquez, another NNG scholar, wants to teach elementary education and Spanish in Omaha someday.

This afternoon, the 19-year-old UNO sophomore has been helping a girl named Precious finish a math assignment and fill out scholarship applications for college.

"She's really sweet," Sarahi says. "When she doesn't understand something she'll let me know."

The kids may benefit from the tutors, she says, but the tutors also benefit from the kids.

"To me, this (NNG scholarship) has meant being able to continue studying through college, being able to pay for school because it's expensive. But also, this has meant getting to work with people I wouldn't get to work with normally, like here at the Hope Center.

"They make it fun. They make it interesting. I learn so much from them every day."

Says Andrew Lewandowski, 22, another NNG scholar: "It's just fun when you can show them how you learned that same material and they ‘get' it. It's like, ‘Oh!' They have that ah-ha moment of figuring that out."

"You're making a difference – whether it be even saying hi to them, talking about their daily life, helping with homework, talking about school and their future. It gives them a real role model for them to look up to."

Community engagement – which these future teachers are doing with the Hope Center kids – is a campaign priority for UNO. So is providing need- and merit-based support for students, such as the NNG scholarships.

Almost half of UNO's current students are the first from their families to go to college. Many have to work while in college.

If you'd like to support the College of Education, contact Susan Schnase at 402-502-4105. If you'd like to support UNO in other ways, contact Lori Byrne at 402-502-4920.

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