Once every two weeks, almost 30 employees at DLA Troop Support choose not to relax while enjoying their lunch. Instead they travel the few blocks from the Salvation Army to Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, where they volunteer their time to tutor students who benefit from the extra push.
Project Government and Industry Volunteers for Education is Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support’s longest-running community program, going on for 47 years now, said Ryan McLeod, the project’s coordinator. For an hour every other week, DLA employees will tutor third-grade students in reading, math or whatever else they may want to focus on, giving them confidence in their skills.
“The goal with Project G.I.V.E. is to give each student that one-on-one support, because sometimes they can’t get that in the classroom with 25 or 30 students,” McLeod said. McLeod has been the chairman of the program for the last 14 years, and the program has been coming to the school for the last 15.
Some 25 to 30 students participate each year, with 27 students participating this year. There are 27 tutors from DLA to match, so each student receives individualized attention.
“We try to pick middle kids just to give them that extra boost,” said teacher Christy Harman, who helps select which students qualify for the program.
Participating for the last six years, Harman said she never saw a student not excited to go to tutoring.
“I like watching the relationships you see them build with their tutors. By the end of the year wrap-up you can see how close they are. They know about each other’s lives and they really form a bond, which is great for the students,” she said.
DLA employee Shahid Wilds has been volunteering with Project G.I.V.E. since 1987, when the project took place at its location in South Philadelphia. He said principals and teachers are appreciative of the project and notice the difference it helps the student make in the classroom.
“Seeing how children have grown and matured throughout the years has been amazing,” Wilds said. “The kids are just an inspiration to us and we hope to give it right back to them.” He recalled one time meeting the mother of one of the students he tutored who thanked him for how much the student had grown through the year.
Harman echoed that sentiment, saying she had seen the difference it can make.
“There were students who were super timid and embarrassed to read in front of the class and just didn’t have that confidence,” she said. “At the end of the year they had to give a presentation, and they were finally comfortable reading out to the class.” ••