Qatar Academy’s Homework Café, a collaboration between Qatar Academy staff and Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar student tutors, has just finished a third successful school year. The program offers assistance to students in grade 6-12 who voluntarily seek tutoring or who are required to attend because they have shown areas of need in the classroom.
As Meredith Hedrick, one of the QA program facilitators, explains, “Homework Café is a great opportunity for students to receive academic support by teachers and knowledgeable university students. If our students don’t understand one of their homework assignments, they can stay after school to get help from a teacher of that particular subject or from an older student who has excelled in the subject.”
Teachers stay after school on Mondays and Tuesdays for one hour to offer assistance in their subject areas, which include math, science, humanities, English, Arabic and, this year, music. In addition, university students stop by once or twice a week on those days to help with math, science, and Islamic studies.
“Qatar Academy contacted Carnegie Mellon to inquire about their students who might be interested in obtaining community and service hours by tutoring our students,” says Kay Mitchell, academic coordinator for student support. “The aim was to provide positive role models for our students and raise awareness of the opportunities with the universities in [Education City]. ”
Mitchell believes that the growth and success of the program is partly due to the fact that the tutors are closer in age to the students and may be able to offer advice about study habits.
Rama Sbei, a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon, took on an administrative role and managed the university’s tutors this year, after working as a tutor the previous academic year. “Students seemed to be working hard during tutoring sessions and more students were there on their own because they wanted help, not because they were required to go,” he said of this year’s program.
Grade 6 student Abdulla Alsubai is a perfect example of one of these students. “In the beginning I went because I needed to get some tutoring,” Abdulla admits. “I found the teachers very helpful. I realized that I liked Homework Café because it was to my advantage to go get help and there weren’t any limitations on me. It has helped me so far, considering my grades are higher now.”
Seven Carnegie Mellon students worked as tutors this year, including sophomore Business Administration majors Lana Al-Kahala, Yasaman Goudarzi, Zeina Murtada and freshman Asmahan Ghaly. Although these students received community and service credits for their work, they also enjoyed the program. “I joined the group this year because I love working with kids. I love to help others and I felt like the tutoring program was a great experience,” says Ms. Ghaly, who tutored mostly math and science.
Math tutor Yasaman Goudarzi worked at QA on Mondays and says, “I joined because I like helping others. The QA students were great, the program was actually fun.” Zeina Murtada enjoyed the challenge of helping students understand her favorite subject: “I liked helping with math because it is the most demanding subject.”
Facilitator Mick Cochrane believes the tutoring program and the help of the school’s teaching staff is giving students an opportunity to get ahead of competition, especially since university is just around the corner for many of the participants. “Our teachers and our wonderful student tutors are always available to assist students in becoming dedicated, independent learners who are ready to forge ahead of the competition. These couple of extra hours each week are really putting students in the driving seat of their own future, and it’s great to be a part of something so engaging and productive.”
The Homework Café will return to the classrooms of QA for the 2012-13 academic year. “We have received many positive comments from students and parents about the value of this program. It will definitely be offered for a fourth year at Qatar Academy, thanks to our dedicated group of teachers and volunteers,” Mitchell said.
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