Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Students at Bayside STEM Academy in San Mateo participate in the after-school tutoring program.
The Bayside STEM Academy’s library is so dead quiet Mondays and Thursdays after school it’s almost hard to tell it’s full of studious middle schoolers.
Twice a week from 2:45 p.m.-4:30 p.m., students attend the after-school tutoring program sponsored by the San Mateo Rotary Club. For about five years, students have brought assignments, while former Bayside students, Rotary volunteers and teachers have given them a hand with the work.
“There’s a special connection because we (the tutors) went here,” said tutor Tara Arcia, now a freshman at Aragon High School. “We’re so close in age and know how it was before.”
Tutors are often part of the San Mateo Academic Rotary Team, or SMART, a scholarship program that gives low-income, at-risk eighth-grade students with decent academic success $500 when they graduate high school and $100 a year if they complete goals set at the beginning of each school year. Rotary funds about $25,000 annually for SMART. Tutors are paid $10 an hour.
Regeneration is a good model for supporting students, said Principal Jeanne Elliott.
“Everybody’s working together and that’s how it’s supposed to work in a perfect world,” she said. “It’s not just an academic building block. Confidence helps shape futures.”
Students being tutored are usually those who may not be getting their homework done and there are almost 50 students, selected by teachers, a year who participate in the program. Others are just looking for a quiet place to work.
Rotarians involved in the program say it helps alleviate some of the inequities felt between the west and east sides of San Mateo. El Camino Real divides two worlds, said Rotarian John Kelly, former executive director at the Samaritan House.
“Bayside is a real challenge,” Kelly said. “It’s the east side of town and kids are really at risk. … Established families in San Mateo would not understand what some of these kids go through to survive. Survival becomes a way of life. There are things we took for granted like having an environment where learning is easy.”
There needs to be a lot more programs like this so kids know they have the talent and people are willing to help them get there, he said.
“Some parents are surviving at low-income jobs and working two to three jobs each,” he said. “Their energy to help them (their kids) is extremely limited.”
Meanwhile, Jose Montano, an eighth-grader in the after-school program said he likes the community around the group.
“The workspace is quiet and it’s a safe place,” he said. “A close friend of mine is John Kelly and I really would like to thank him for this.”
Another eighth-grader Angel Martinez said the environment is perfect for focusing on getting work done free of distractions from his TV at home. While Jocelyn Hernandez, a sixth-grader, said it’s helped her get her homework done since she plays sports and doesn’t have to do homework late at night instead.
Teachers are also seeing results from the program, said seventh-grade teacher Donna Finkelstein. It’s helpful for students who need to redo work and for those without access to computers at home.
“It has a huge impact,” she said. “It’s a safe and quiet place for them to come. It’s a nice way to end their day. They zip in and we make sure to have the materials they need to get work done.”
For more information on the SMART program visit sanmateorotary.com/SmartProgram.cfm.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105