Volunteer Tutors Give Inner-City Kids A Boost

Devonteh Reid gets a hand from tutor Robert La Rosa while Aisha Thomas does her homework at the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation.

Photograph by: PIERRE OBENDRAUF, THE GAZETTE, The Gazette

The Trevor Williams Kids Foundation is dedicated to teaching life skills to youngsters and keeping them in school.

Williams, a former Canadian Olympic basketball player, started his foundation in 2002 and preaches positive learning using sports as well as programs pushing math, reading and scholarships.

When the members of his board felt there was a glaring need for tutoring at-risk students, they lacked the funds and the space to do so.

What they did have was a boardroom in Westmount.

Good old fashioned ingenuity meant dismantling the large donated oak conference table in their boardroom and moving in desks.

The table and leather chairs went into storage.

Voila, no board room in their offices on Greene Ave. but a new classroom for after-school help.

Four afternoons a week, students climb steep steps to get some help with their studies from volunteer tutors.

“These are inner-city kids with no means for after-school tutoring,” said Sheri Elefant, a full time volunteer and vice-president of the TWKF.

“Some of these kid don’t have a quiet place to do their homework at home,” said Alex Lazar, a co-ordinator with the program.

Currently, there are 12 students getting after school help, with another 14 on a waiting list.

The students are recommended to the program by their teachers and come from schools that serve the inner city such as Westmount Park, Roslyn and Westmount High.

The program started two weeks ago and runs 10 weeks until the schools break for the holidays.

So far, there’s been no problem with truancy, Elefant said of the participants, who range in age from 8 to 17.

“The kids that are here want to be here,” she said.

Taiisha Smith, a Grade Three student at Westmount Park, was playing with paper money and coins, learning how to count.

“I like coming here,” said the shy little girl.

Keisha Lespoir finished high school, but didn’t pass math and physical science. She’s getting help for her adult education courses so she can get her high school leaving.

“This is really good and when I first heard about this program I said ‘yes, please,’ ” Lespoir said as she worked on some geometry last week.

The tutors are all volunteers from the law faculty of McGill University, recruited by Denburk Reid, another foundation co-ordinator.

“We look for someone who connects with the kids and who has a connection to sports,” Reid said of the tutor selection process.

The six tutors commit to 10 weeks, some working one day a week, others two. There will be three sessions; phase two after Christmas and phase three after the spring break.

Reid is already fielding requests from law students who want to participate in phase two.

The foundation rents space from the Learning Association of Montreal and Elefant said there are negotiations to use one of LAM’s classrooms to expand the tutoring program.

And what do they do now when they have board meetings? “We shove all the desks together and people sit where they can,” said Elefant.

For more information about the Trevor Williams Kids Foundation, go to www.twkf.com asutherland@thegazette.canwest.com

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