Summer is coming rapidly, and so does the avalanche of summer work. Whether it be for AP courses or electives, there is always something to do over the summer. Thankfully, there is a miracle brewing at the Peabody Library. Nicolas Blaisdell, a recent PVMHS graduate, aspired to help Peabody and grow knowledge and education into the community: and thus, the Peabody Volunteer Tutoring Organization (PVTO) was born.
PVTO is a group of PVMHS alumni who want to bring what they learned back to the community. Whether it be by helping a student with summer work, teaching them something new, or inspiring their futures, PVTO aspires to culture something new in Peabody.
From July 11th to August 18th, PVTO will run. Each individual course will be held only once a week, however. It will be held in the Main Peabody Institute Library, where there is a room currently devoted to this program. There are currently two blocks sectioned off per day; one from 9-12 and one from 1-4. In the middle, a free lunch is also provided, through a program the Peabody Library already offers for children under the age of 18.
Recently, I was able to sit down with the mastermind behind this project, Nicolas Blaisdell, and was able to ask him a few questions about PVTO.
So you're starting a tutoring program?
BLAISDELL: Its grades 1 through 12 at the Peabody institute library. We call ourselves the Peabody volunteer tutoring organization, or PVTO. The program was designed to last once a week for six weeks, beginning July 11 and it will end august 18. The way we set it up is in a classroom setting, with approximately one tutor for every 15 kids.
So you get a good teacher to student dispersion, making it a good healthy environment?
BLAISDELL: Exactly. We actually have a room dedicated for us at the Peabody library.
How much time will be invested for every session of this?
BLAISDELL: Each session will be approximately 80 minutes, so just over 1 hour and 20 minutes.
So that’s really reasonable.
BLAISDELL: It’s not too much, yet not too short, though. Each tutor is required to teach one class which is 80 minutes once a week for the six weeks.
What’s the focus for this? What are you hoping to do?
BLAISDELL: So the purpose of it is basically to inspire subject interest. In the core subjects, it's always going to help people who are struggling. But it's also a free service for people of Peabody: building community in that sense. It’s also for inspiring subject interests. It’s not just a matter of studying and learning the stuff that you have to do, but also to find an interest of the material and to learn something. That's the bigger goal.
So it’s like…
BLAISDELL: Like the clichéd “make learning fun.”
But it’s really what you’re trying to get at.
BLAISDELL: Yes, it’s really what we’re trying to get at. I don't recall the exact numbers of the studies, but students who don't have any summer courses actually just shut down for the summer. Those two months they actually regress a lot academically.
So you’re really trying to keep kids thinking.
BLAISDELL: Yeah, just to keep kids in this in the mindset of learning where it doesn’t have to be in a school setting.
It sounds like a friendly environment.
BLAISDELL: Yeah, a friendly environment where we’re testing knowledge, and learning new things.
What about summer reading and summer work?
BLAISDELL: We have definitely going to do the four core subjects: English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. Grades 1 through 12 will be geared there. There will be a unit a few weeks dedicated to summer reading and summer work for English and the same thing with math. We will help assist with summer work, but it's also practicing skills and understanding the skills and themes during each grade.
If I sign up for this will I have to go to every session?
BLAISDELL: It’s recommended but the sessions aren't continuous so you can show up here and there. However, it's recommended, highly recommended to come every time.
Is there a cost?
BLAISDELL: Absolutely free.
So you’re providing an absolutely free educational service that’s meant to help kids?
BLAISDELL: Exactly. That’s the whole purpose of it.
That’s the most altruistic thing I’ve heard in quite a while.
BLAISDELL: Also there's also another program that's running simultaneously and we’re linking them together. I'm not in charge of this program, it's been a while before me, but it's called the summer food services from the Peabody Library. It guarantees all children, all people under 18 and younger, free lunch at the library Monday through Thursday which is the same day as our program’s running. We have made it so our schedule aligns. If you have students coming for tutoring, they’re guaranteed a free lunch because our tutoring sessions run into 9 to 12 and then 1 to 4. Those are the morning and afternoon shifts. So lunch is then from 12 to 1.
Can you talk a little about how this came to you?
BLAISDELL: I want to be a teacher. When I graduate UMass I want to be a high school English teacher. I was thinking, I was wondering if Peabody had anything that can help out over the summer. To get experience, and obviously to help people especially people who can afford tutoring. As far as I know tutors are very expensive. The lowest at $20 an hour, upwards of $40 and on. I want to get experience for the people who want to be tutors and teachers, but also to help and give back to the community. So that's definitely what started it. I got this crazy idea around midnight on a weekend at UMass, and I started contacting people from the library, I typed proposals, and I typed sample curriculums. I contacted the library, I met with officials there, and I contacted the superintendent. I met with him once, we exchange e-mails. And now it's a legitimate organization. I contacted a lot of friends who would all be interested, around 15 tutors. Currently, as of today, we have around 40 people enrolled.
So with 15 you could have a capacity of over 200 students?
BLAISDELL: Potentially yeah. That’s assuming our scheduling works out. That’s the biggest challenge.
You’ve got a lot going for you right now.
Absolutely so the programs looking really good, everything's going as planned. We have a Facebook page, it’s up and running at https://www.facebook.com/PeabodyVolunteerTutors. All of our information on how to sign up, and the e-mail address, is there. The Peabody Library has a lot more information too.
Nicolas Blaisdell started something most freshmen in college never think of, and at The Tanner Times, we’re excited to see what impact PVTO will have onto our community. Best of luck to Nick and his team of tutors as they tackle the summer. They’ve truly begun something amazing.