For the last two years I have had the privilege of working with a Campus Y organization by the name of Helping Youth by Providing Enrichment or HYPE. HYPE sends about 150 tutors to four different communities around the Chapel Hill community where we work with about 80 elementary aged students. The aim of HYPE is to provide enrichment, friendship, and academic assistance to low-income individuals in both neighborhoods and public housing communities. While I have thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering with the organization, even contributing to the organization in an executive position, the issues associated with HYPE give way to larger issues in tutoring programs in general.
Although the mission of HYPE is to address educational disparities in the Chapel Hill/ Carborro community, we very rarely address any social factors in the community as a whole. For example, the executive board members of HYPE once attended a community meeting in the Rogers Road neighborhood (where we send tutors), but that has been the only instance in which we have made an effort to reach out to members of the community. Now this is not just a fault of HYPE, but is a more indicative problem of many tutoring programs that UNC offers.
More often than not, the tutoring programs that are run through UNC do very little to work simultaneously with community organizers that may be able to tackle underlying issues that affect the students UNC tutors are working with. In the Rogers Road community for instance, a historically black neighborhood outside of Carrboro, the residents have been struggling to obtain an efficient sewage and water system for at least the last thirty years. This issue could have grave effects on the students of this neighborhood and instead of our tutors working with the neighborhood in advocating for this problem, we have made very little effort to work with organizers and instead tutor and leave at the end of the day.
It is nearly impossible to eradicate educational disparities without realizing that schools are the center of communities and communities will always have an effect on schools. . In the book “Learning Power: Organizing for Education”, authors Jeannie Oakes and John Rogers discuss schools as the center of the community. If the problems of the community are not addressed than the social problems will continue to manifest within the school (Oakes and Rogers 2006 p. 168). They both openly acknowledge that solutions to problems in school will only be eradicated once the struggles in the community have been tackled.
I believe that HYPE, along with many tutoring organizations throughout campus, have a long ways to go. Preaching that we are making an effort to eradicate educational disparities in the Chapel Hill community is nearly impossible if we do not first engage with the community in a meaningful and fulfilling way. Student organizations around campus should make efforts to collaborate with organizations that work with community organizers and local residents to ensure we are meeting the needs of the neighborhood and combining our resources effectively to make substantive change. But Despite the issues I have addressed within HYPEI have no holds expressing both my gratitude and appreciation for the program. Working with, and making connections with these students has made a positive impact in my time here at Carolina. Each Friday when I work with the students in the program I cannot help but feel as though I am making an impact, albeit a small one, in their lives. And although I am more than likely making a very small impact in their lives, they have made an immense impact in mine and for that, the experiences I have had with HYPE will never be forgotten.
Disclaimer: I firmly believe that HYPE does a great job in connecting with the students in each of the communities we are involved in. As an executive board member of the organization and a tutor, I believe I have a critical lens of the program that allows me to make effective critiques of the program all the while praising the work we have done. HYPE is a great organization and one that I encourage all UNC students to join.