Last year, BranchOut! returned its in-person tutoring program for the first time since the pandemic. This summer marked another successful year for the BranchOut! tutoring program. BranchOut! mentors stepped up once again to provide critical academic support to students participating in the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Credit Recovery Program (CRA). The three-week summer program provides a crucial lifeline for high school students who do not meet certain graduation requirements. By retaking courses and recovering credit lost during the school year, students can get back on track towards their diploma.
The mentors served students from three FCPS high schools, including Marshall, Oakton, and South Lakes High School. The BranchOut! mentors worked as teaching assistants and tutors in the classroom, providing one-on-one guidance to students in order to recover credit in a variety of core classes ranging from algebra and geometry to biology and chemistry. They built strong connections with students, helping motivate them towards their academic goals. Mentor involvement in the classroom helped guide students towards success.
Students needing extra support were able to receive individualized attention to help them understand each day’s lesson. Many struggling to grasp fundamental concepts saw significant improvements in their grades thanks to consistent meetings with mentors. Furthermore, students expressed gratitude for the academic and emotional boosts the mentors provided. “She helped me a lot with some problems that I didn’t know,” commented one rising 10th grader in an algebra class. Another student shared how a mentor “helped [her] understand many difficult equations.”
Faculty were also appreciative of the support provided by BranchOut! mentors. Considering many classes did not have a dedicated resource teacher to help students, many were grateful for the extra tutoring provided. One teacher commended a mentor for “checking in and assisting some of the most at-risk students with their class assignments and answering their questions about the content.” The principal of Marshall’s CRA expressed gratitude for the mentors’ assistance, mentioning, “Your dedication and willingness to share your knowledge with others is truly inspiring. As student volunteers, you possess a unique ability to connect with your peers and create an engaging and supportive learning environment.”
In addition to the recognition from faculty and students, mentors gained invaluable experience from their time working with the students. They had an immense opportunity for personal growth. Through teaching their peers, mentors gained vital communication skills. They learned to explain complex concepts in ways their peers could understand. The mentors also improved self-reflection abilities by identifying areas where students struggled and considering new ways to make the material more accessible. But the most rewarding moment came when mentors were able to see the impact they had on student learning. One mentor shared, “After working with a student for just half an hour, seeing the progression from them not being able to solve any of the problems to mastering all of the content was extremely humbling.“
Based on the positive impact on students this summer, the FCPS tutoring program is already gearing up for next summer. The program looks forward to expanding its outreach and continuing to impact high schools in the county, ensuring academic support remains accessible for all students.