By Lauren Foote
Youngstown State University’s Beeghly College of Education received a $450,000 grant to work with Youngstown City Schools’ at-risk youth, helping fund the creation of Penguin Assistants for Student Success — a program that places YSU students in Youngstown City Schools to tutor primary grade students.
PASS has established a close relationship between YSU and Youngstown Schools, and the purpose of this relationship is two-fold. It should not only help at-risk students in second grade pass their third grade reading exam, but also give YSU education students hands-on teaching experience.
Here’s how the program is supposed to work: a YSU tutor is paired with a second grade student, working closely with this student until he or she takes the third grade literacy exam. Once the student has received their third grade reading guarantee, the YSU student will be assigned to another second grade student.
If the tutor’s third grader passes the reading exam, the YSU tutor will receive a $1,000 scholarship. In the event that the student does not pass, the YSU tutor still receives a $250 scholarship.
YSU President Jim Tressel, who played a major role in the creation of PASS, made positive comment on the program’s mission.
“We need this program, because hopefully if we aid these students with reading, comprehension and critical thinking in this level of standardized testing, then it will hopefully help them in the rest of their academic career and help more at risk students reach their full potential,” Tressel said.
The program is in full swing, with 235 tutors already grouped with their elementary school student in the Youngstown school district. The program intends to eventually place 380 tutors in the area schools.
Danielle Pazillo, an education student, has enjoyed her time working with the PASS program.
“This has been one of the best things I have ever done, working with my student and knowing that I am making a difference reassures my decision to become an education major,” she said.
Classmate Joe Mahoney echoed Pazillo’s sentiment, sharing his own experience with the program.
“I walked in and my student was eager to meet me, and as I walked down the hallway with her she grabbed my hand and I knew then that this was truly the career that I wanted to spend my life doing,” he said.
Tressel worked with the Second and Seven Foundation to develop and implement the PASS program. Founded in 1999 by former Ohio State University football players Luke Fickell, Ryan Miller and Mike Vrabel, the Second and Seven Foundation is a nonprofit organization created to combat illiteracy. Their foundation has donated a cart full of books to PASS.
To participate in PASS, one need not be an education major; any interested student can access an application for the program on the BCOE’s website.