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MU kicks off sixth year of tutoring, mentoring high school students

Tucked back in Western campus, in a Boyd Hall classroom, is an alternative learning opportunity for Talawanda High School and Butler Technology students.

The program hosts students wishing to receive additional help with their schoolwork and develop relationships with Miami students. The program, Miami Connections, is named in the Presidential Service Award presented to Miami University and will officially begin its sixth year Sept. 8.

Miami Connections is open to all Talawanda High School and Butler Technology freshmen and sophomores. Students enrolled in the program will be paired with a Miami student who will serve as either a tutor or mentor. The mentors will have a one-on-one relationship with a certain student throughout the semester, while the tutors will pair up with different students as needed.

Leah Wasburn-Moses, Miami Connections professor and project manager, described the foundations on which Miami Connections was initially founded.

"There were two simultaneous needs: some extra support for high school students who needed it and for Miami teaching education majors who were starting to look for teaching placements," Wasburn-Moses said. "And living in a rural area there aren't many placements."

On average there are around 75 to 100 Miami students each year serving with Miami Connections. For these students, working in the program counts toward a one-credit hour service learning class.

Tutors within the program serve to aid students when they need assistance with their online course modules. Mentors, however, are more responsible for providing social and emotional support to their mentee.

Wasburn-Moses is said she is excited for the new school year, when she can further pursue her goals for the program.

"We want their educational experience to be engaging," she said. "We want them to engage with Miami's campus and the Miami students."

Sydney Stevens, a former mentor, is now the student assistant of Miami Connections and is serving as Wasburn-Moses's undergraduate assistant.

Stevens enjoyed seeing the beneficial personal growth and goal-setting skills among the high school students during her time with Miami Connections last school year.

"We work on making individual goals with each student on a monthly basis," Stevens said. "They reflect on goals from last month and make new goals, whether it be social, attendance or grades."

A former mentee told Wasburn-Moses, "I learned that school isn't your enemy - it can actually help you find your talents."

From Stevens' experience as a mentor, she noticed many students realizing throughout the semester how much they had in common with their Miami mentors.

"I have heard a lot of reactions that they're surprised how much they have in common with the Miami students," Stevens said. "I think a lot of them become pleasantly surprised at how much they have in common."

Due to the success of Miami Connections, Wasburn-Moses received a grant to start the same model of the program on other college campuses throughout Ohio.

Wasburn-Moses also said Ohio State University is considering implementation of the program.

Miami Connections likes its students to gain more perspectives of the world by having this alternative educational experience for their high school career.

"They can see that there's more to this world," Wasburn-Moses said. "They live in this community so you would think they would be really involved with the Miami community but that's not always the case. Here they can take charge of their education."