Chicago Lights Tutoring seeks to break the cycle of poverty through academic and emotional support for over 400 students from low-income communities by helping the students improve their academic performance, stay in school through high school graduation, prepare for higher education and meaningful careers, and expand leadership and social skills.
Children in grades one through twelve, from the Near North, Near West, and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, come to Fourth Presbyterian Church for weekly one-to-one tutoring sessions with volunteer tutors/mentors. Healthy meals, creative enrichment activities, computer lab access, career development opportunities, internships, scholarships, and literacy activities are key components of the program, which operates four evenings a week during the school year.
Ashley has been a Tutoring student since she was a first grader and she credits the program with introducing her to people she would not otherwise have had a chance to meet. Ashley's favorite Tutoring memory takes her all the way back to grammar school.
"My first tutor [Maggie] always wanted to do things outside tutoring with me," she recalls. Once, Ashley and Maggie, along with another student and tutor, spent the whole day at the Museum of Science and Industry. "We had so much fun there...playing in all the rooms. She really befriended me," Ashley says. "She was someone I could really trust."
Although she does "have some nerves," Ashley says she's excited for college at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "I don't know exactly what I want to do--I want to try different things--but my goal is to be a pharmacist," she says. "I want to learn everything I can." She's also ready for a change of scenery. "I've stayed in one house my whole life, in Chicago.... I'm ready to go out!"
Ashley says she's grateful for all the experiences she's had with Tutoring, and all of her tutors. "Each has revealed a different part of myself," she says. "Each one made a difference in my life."