Student Opportunities for After-School Resources
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The SOAR after-school program at the International Prep Academy (IPA) in Champaign began in February 2006 in response to the needs of Latino immigrant families who requested extra support to help their children achieve academic success. Originally hosted at B.T. Washington Elementary School in Champaign, the SOAR after-school program moved with the district bilingual program to Garden Hills Elementary School in 2011 and continued providing academic support for Latina/o emergent bilingual children in grades 2-5. In the fall of 2015 the district bilingual program moved to the International Prep Academy, the new dual language school for the district, and SOAR moved with it. Now in its eleventh year of operation, SOAR represents a successful ongoing collaboration between the College of Education and the Champaign Unit #4 School District that brings resources from the University of Illinois to address a need in the local community.
The SOAR after-school program at IPA provides literacy support and homework help to Latina/o emergent bilingual/biliterate students in grades 2-5 by pairing them one-on-one with volunteer tutors from the University of Illinois. Each semester approximately 100 dedicated University of Illinois students from a wide variety of academic majors volunteer their time weekly to provide the academic support to SOAR program participants.
The main focus of the SOAR tutoring sessions is on increasing emergent bilingual/biliterate students’ engagement in reading. Students are given the opportunity to choose books to read and discuss with their tutors during SOAR. Among the reading choices are culturally relevant Spanish and bilingual books in a variety of genres including fiction, nonfiction, folktales, and poetry. Tutors ask comprehension questions to encourage and facilitate discussion about the books. After reading, the tutors assist the students with homework completion and enrichment activities.
While providing academic support, university volunteer tutors are able to develop skills that complement their course curriculum. These skills include critical thinking skills, interpersonal communication skills, collaboration skills, leadership skills, and learning to live in a diverse society.
Since 2009, University of Illinois tutors have logged a total of 31,000 volunteer hours with the SOAR after-school program.
The SOAR program is highly regarded for its campus-community engagement, longevity, and impact and has enjoyed recognition from various entities across campus and in the community, including:
- Champaign County Latino Partnership – Most Valuable Community Program Recognition
- University of Illinois Campus Award for Excellence in Public Engagement (CAEPE)
- City of Champaign Service Together Achieves Results (STAR) Honoree
- AERA Education Research Project Grant
Interested in participating in this fun and rewarding community service activity?
Contact Maria Lang, SOAR Program Coordinator
Please contact Maria Lang to sign up for one of the orientation sessions for new SOAR tutors. All necessary paperwork will be completed at the orientation session. (contact information below)