Volunteers in Publics School:  The Future of Public Education

Volunteers In Public Schools, or VIPS, is a tutoring service that was established in 1981 after court-ordered busing left the East Baton Rouge Parish school district depleted of community confidence and public involvement. The founders of VIPS understood that public education is community work and knew that for students to excel, they needed the support and participation of the community as according to the National Research Council, “academic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.” 

In response to this, programs such as VIPS were created and incorporated and can be found throughout schools in the greater East Baton Rouge Parish. Teachers recommend students for the program and are then paired to volunteers such as former basketball coach, Greg Handy, who work with the students one-on-one on reading and arithmetic, “If a child learns to read well, then they can be successful in every subject.” 

Mr. Greg Handy’s statement has thus far rung true as according to the VIPS website, “ students who received 10 or more visits from a Reading Friend saw an increase in reading test scores 13.4 percent points higher than peers who did not receive tutoring.”

The volunteers are thoroughly screened and vetted with a comprehensive background check and drug screening process. As Southern University is centered near several elementary and high schools, students often volunteer through the VIPS program for their service learning, “We usually have anywhere from 15-30 Southern Students each semester,” said the Volunteer & Community Partners Director, Kaia Simmons. The volunteers are either assigned Reading or Math Friends. Both jobs require that the volunteer completes an hour of training session. Being a non-student volunteer, you must pass a background check, have experience with community outreach and have a passion for literacy and helping children.

The tutoring sessions are available during the normal school day hours, which for most schools starts around 8:45 am and ends at 3:00 pm. To have a child in the program, he or she must have been recommended by his or her teacher. If you have any questions or concerns you can visit the Volunteers In Public Schools at the Wilma C. Montgomery Center in Room 1, which is located at 4070 Tunica St. in Baton Rouge, or call the center at (225) 226-4700. As well to learn more about the program and see some of the work it has done you can go to the official website, www.vipsbr.org.

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