Read a letter from Tyler Flynn, founder of the Columbus Tutoring Initiative:
“In the spring of 2004 a group of Franklinton pastors commissioned me to contact the principal at Avondale Elementary School to ask how the churches of the community could serve the school. The principal’s response was quick and passionate. “We need tutors. Over half of our 350 students do not have the necessary reading skills to succeed academically. Without the ability to read well, many of our students will drop out of school before graduation, resulting in a lifetime of low-paying jobs and even poverty.”
Tutoring grade school children would be a challenge, but I assured her I was willing to try. The principal looked at me and said, “Let’s get started!”, and she assigned me to work with a second grade boy for the remainder of the school year. On my first tutoring day she introduced me to Kenny, then handed me a folder with several booklets, a set of comprehension exercises, and a high frequency word list. There we sat—a timid boy who wasn’t sure why he had been singled out by the principal and an inexperienced novice who wondered what he had gotten himself into!
After only a few sessions, Kenny and I were getting the knack of tutoring, and he was enjoying the one-on-one time with an adult. Word that this was a good deal spread quickly to the rest of the class. Soon, each time I arrived at the classroom door to pick up Kenny, his classmates begged me to be their tutor, too! I assured them that I would bring more tutors in September.
The tutoring program was born that next fall with twenty-five adult volunteers eager to tutor a second grader over one lunch hour/recess per week. The second year the number of volunteers grew to seventy-five; the following year we were ninety-five. Most tutors and students bonded quickly, and the students’ reading scores showed marked improvement—almost without exception. The program grew to include two more elementary schools in Franklinton, several additional Columbus City schools, and eventually schools in Dublin, Westerville, Hilliard and Grove City.
In 2018-2019 nearly 250 students were served in seventeen public schools with an average improvement of 1.4 years of reading growth per student. The relationships the volunteers develop with their students is among the program’s greatest impacts. Principals have told us that there are few absences on tutoring day because the one-on-one time is often the high point of a student’s week.
The Columbus Tutoring Initiative has been a team effort since its inception. Central Ohio Youth for Christ, now the sole sponsor of CTI, made it possible for the program to grow both in size and effectiveness through its generous provision of staffing and financial support. Local churches, businesses and nearby colleges have recruited hundreds of volunteers and have also provided financial contributions. Principals opened their doors, found space for tutoring sessions, and designated staff and teachers to support the tutors.
However, the most important team members have been the dedicated men and women who pressed forward week after week alongside their hard-working second and third grade students. As a result of these efforts over the past fourteen years, several thousand young people in central Ohio have a brighter future.
The need for tutoring remains acute in Columbus and in many suburbs. I’m confident that CTI’s growth and impact will continue into the next decade as it increases the number of volunteers and schools and expands the number of partnerships with local churches and businesses.
CTI’s motto is Touch a Life, Be Changed for Life. If you have a love for children and want to make a difference in a young life, I encourage you to give tutoring a try. If you do, you’ll discover that your student will change your life, too!”