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Cameron Clark, an eighth-grade student at St. Louis Catholic Academy, worked on algebra Jan. 16 with Paul Steube, a volunteer tutor from Our Lady of the Pillar Parish. Our Lady of the Pillar and St. Clement of Rome partner on a tutoring program at the academy, with 31 tutors volunteering weekly.
Cameron Clark, an eighth-grade student at St. Louis Catholic Academy, worked on algebra Jan. 16 with Paul Steube, a volunteer tutor from Our Lady of the Pillar Parish. Our Lady of the Pillar and St. Clement of Rome partner on a tutoring program at the academy, with 31 tutors volunteering weekly.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Tutors from West County parishes assist St. Louis Academy students

Betty Keithley checked first-grader Gerald Williams’ papers. She pointed to one of his sentences: The hen sits on her nest

“What kind of punctuation do you need?” Keithley asked.

Gerald looked up and quickly answered, “A period.”

Keithley praised him for that, for his proficiency with spelling and for his math abilities.

On the next floor of St. Louis Catholic Academy, Mike Rudolph and sixth-grader Ca’Lesha Harrell were among upper-grade students and tutors tackling math problems. Rudolph reminded Ca’Lesha that in the pre-algebra equations, always work from left to right unless there are parentheses. With only a little help, she solved problems such as 9-4-(2-3) and 9 {plus or minus} 2-5+6.

Our Lady of the Pillar Parish in Creve Coeur began the after-school tutoring program at the school in the Penrose neighborhood of St. Louis 12 years ago. Today, 31 volunteers (and 10 alternates) from Our Lady of the Pillar and St. Clement Parish visit weekly.

Keithley, a Pillar parishioner, has volunteered for about six years. Gerald’s progress in sounding out words is amazing, said Keithley, who keeps track of words he struggles to spell.

“I like the kids. It’s fun to see their progress and how they adapt,” she said. Gerald came in as a kindergartner not knowing how to write his name. “And so, you should see him now. This tutoring is magnificent for them.”

His tutor even assisted Gerald in pronouncing his name, which he says now with confidence.

Ca’Lesha appreciated the help with her math. “I love challenges,” she said. “And I love science.”

Rudolph, a Pillar parishioner, told her he’d help her qualify for an honors program in math. “We do a lot of drilling with just the basics,” he said. “But once you get her started, you see that confidence booming.”

Rudolph, who works for a food broker, has helped as a tutor for about five years. He’s well qualified, having taught math previously at St. John Vianney High School, taught at Saint Louis University and coached basketball and track. He enjoys seeing the joy in the students’ eyes when they learn a concept.

“I see the positive difference we’re making in their lives, not only academically but also personally, spiritually,” Rudolph said. “It’s something more than just tutoring. It’s that confidence, self-esteem, all those qualities, the can-do attitude. They can take that to high school and college and choose what their options are in life.”

Another volunteer, Paul Steube of Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, has been a tutor for about 10 years. It’s a good form of stewardship, he said. “You get so much more than you give by donating your time and effort,” said Steube, a retired banker.

“If I can help them prepare for high school, I’m very glad to do it. I try to build their confidence and I try to be positive,” he said.

Pat Love, coordinator of the program, arrives early to organize the effort. About 10 years ago, she heard a former volunteer talk about the tutoring at a Mass at Our Lady of Pillar. Love, who now is retired but was working as a senior manager with the St. Louis Federal Reserve at the time, had the flexibility to take a late afternoon off.

“It’s joyful, fun work,” she said of scheduling and communicating with the principal, staff and tutors, which she’s done for three years.

The students are “precious and a joy to be with,” Love said. “After you’ve been here a couple years it’s not unusual for a little one to run up and give you a hug in the hallway. Many of them need that extra one-on-one adult time. We’re just filling in a little bit with what they get at home and here.”

She sees the academic growth but gives the kudos to the teachers at St. Louis Catholic Academy and its supporters such as the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation, Access Academics and the Archdiocese of St. Louis. “This institution is doing an amazing job. Being able to succeed and to know how to learn — those are skills that don’t automatically show up. We have to help them get there,” Love said.

The school’s principal, Sandra Morton, said it means a lot to have the community involvement. Relationships are important for the students’ learning experience, Morton explained. “I appreciate that the volunteers take a trek across town, through traffic in rush hour, to spend time with these children every week without fail.”


A pathway to college and career

• Most of the students being tutored at St. Louis Catholic Academy are Title I, ISP/teacher referral or simply students who want to participate

• 95% of the 2019 graduates of the school are at college prep high schools this year

• 99% of alumni who attend high school graduate

• St. Louis Catholic Academy students are from one of the most underserved communities in the archdiocese; 95% receive financial aid

• All of the students receive graduate support services through Access Academies

For information on partnering with St. Louis Catholic Academy, contact Pete Cerone of the Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation at petecerone@archstl.org or (314) 792-7732.


>> Outreach

Marianist Father Thomas J. French, pastor of Our Lady of the Pillar Parish, said the tutoring effort by his parishioners is one of their many extraordinary efforts.

“And I keep finding new ones for them,” he said.

One of his favorite efforts is when parishioners gather, clean and donate items left each spring by international residential students when Chaminade ends its school year — sheets, towels, blankets and clothes that they can’t stuff in their suitcases.

Other ongoing projects include donations of sandwiches to St. Patrick Center clients, salads for a meals program at St. Patrick Center, warm meals for needy people at St. Augustine Parish, groceries for Guardian Angel Settlement, a bread sale for the Bridge program and much more.

The parish is a vibrant community, said Pat Love, who coordinates volunteer tutors at St. Louis Catholic Academy. Much of the vibrancy is because of the parish’s strong outreach efforts, she said.

Mike Rudolph noted that Our Lady of the Pillar assists more than 20 charitable organizations. Recipients of the generosity include the Jackie Joyner Kersee Foundation in East St. Louis, Ill., and Doorways in St. Louis. “I feel good that we’re reaching out into our community to help a lot of families and kids in need,” Rudolph said. “We’re all called to help others who are less fortunate with the blessings and talents we have.”

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