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Retired Professors, Students Take Active Role
in After-School Program

RELEASED: April 4, 2005

UW-Eau Claire student Angela Syverson tutors an elementary student
UW-Eau Claire freshman Angela Syverson works with an elementary student during a recent 3-5 Club session. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Rick Mickelson)

EAU CLAIRE — Twice weekly a cadre of retired University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty, student tutors and other volunteers demonstrate that it really does take a village to raise a child.

Their effort is called the 3-5 Club, an after-school program housed at First Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire. The 5-year-old program is aimed at students who are having problems in school, often math. It's a place students of all ages can go after school to get help with their school work.

Barbara Rolland, who taught in the UW-Eau Claire foreign languages department for 33 years, said the volunteers work with between 20 and 35 kids, grades 3 through 12, from 3-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Most of the students are from John Flynn elementary school, Memorial High School and South Middle School. A few come for ESL help, Rolland's specialty.

Rolland said there are two parts to the program. She directs what is called New Beginnings for students who are having real problems in their school work and are directed to the program by school counselors, teachers or administrators. The after-school program was an early intervention program originally developed in response to the Multi-Agency Response Team for Youth agency under the direction of Darwin Wassink, who retired from UW-Eau Claire's economics department in 1998.

"MARTY was a county-funded agency whose goal was early intervention — keeping kids out of the juvenile detention system rather than dealing with the problem afterward," Rolland said. "Unfortunately they lost their funding."

New Beginnings originally met on the UW-Eau Claire campus, and 3-5 at the First Presbyterian Church. Parking was a problem on the campus so Rolland's program joined 3-5 and the two programs now run together with the church offering the use of their facilities and the volunteers who prepare pizza, popcorn, sandwiches and fresh fruit for everyone who comes.

"We don't use the space on these days so why not make it available to help out the community," said the Rev. Eric Nielsen, pastor of First Presbyterian.

Rolland said the program recently received a grant of $2,100 from the Eau Claire County Sheriff's Department, which will be used for transportation to bring other kids from Meadowview School in for help.

The core group of 3-5 Club volunteers is primarily made up of retired university faculty, including many from the department of mathematics, Rolland said. Former math professors include her husband Al Rolland, who taught from 1963-92; Richard Snyder, who retired in 2003 after 16 years; Orville Bierman, who taught from 1971-1997; David Lund, who retired in 2000 after 34 years; and Del Anderson, who taught from 1965-94. "The fact that we have mathematicians here who can help high school kids is a real plus," Rolland said.

Other retirees who help with the program are Carol Fairbanks, English 1971-1997, who helps with the arts and crafts program, and Wassink. Former faculty members who are "on call" to help when needed are Johng Lim, who taught biology for 34 years before retiring in 1999, R. Dale Dick, former graduate dean and professor of psychology for 32 years, and Beverly Dick, professor of music for 31 years.

"We're all here for the same reason. You don't spend your life in a university and then just walk away from teaching and learning," Rolland said. "This is much more exciting than anything else we could be doing. It adds a whole new dimension to our lives."

In addition, about 12 UW-Eau Claire students volunteer as tutors through the university's service-learning center. Several high school students and volunteers from the church also help with the program. Healthy snacks are available, and everything is free.

English major Aaron Knueppel got involved in 3-5 through a service-learning class. "We had to attend the volunteer gathering in Davies where Barb Rolland spoke about 3-5," He said. "She seemed to be the most excited about her organization, so I spoke with her and signed up to volunteer."

Knueppel, a junior from Fond du Lac, hopes to teach high school English someday so working as a tutor has been a great experience. "I really enjoy helping the kids get comfortable with the subjects they are studying," he said. "If they can go to school the next day and not be afraid of their teacher calling on them, then that is great."

Knueppel said most of the kids he works with miss an assignment or two and fall behind. "Then things start to snowball," he said. "They have so much work to get caught up on and they just don't know where to start. They get frustrated and give up, not doing or handing in anything."

Some of the kids have a lot going on at home and their thoughts are there and not with their school work, Knueppel said. "There are, however, a number of them who are doing just fine in school and come to 3-5 to do some extra worksheets and reading," he said.

Knueppel is working on a project to get the kids to read more. "When they come in the door and the first thing they want to talk about is a book they have been reading, we know we have been doing something right," he said.

Most semesters Rolland works with at least one student who has been expelled from school. "In this situation we work with the school in providing help in three or four subjects, giving assignments and quizzes and staying in touch with the high school counselors and administrators," she said. "The result is that often kids are re-admitted to school earlier than would be possible otherwise, and the kids stay on track so that they often are able to graduate with their class."

Grade-wise, the results have been good. "We're told that students can and do raise grades from F to C, from D to B. There is no cost for the program — it's completely free," Rolland said.

Each semester Rolland said they contact math majors and retired faculty about helping with the program. "I think our program is especially good because of all these faculty tutors," she said. "Where else could students get this level of help at no charge?"

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JW/JB

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