Volunteers fare a tougher time than work-study students in getting into community service projects

Students receiving federal work-study grants are given priority over those who would like to work for free in some D.C. public school tutoring programs through GW’s Office of Community Service.

Officials in the community service office said they are more accommodating to work-study students who are interested in both the Jumpstart and D.C. Reads programs since they are federally run and those with the grants have to find such positions for work-study as a part of their financial aid packages.

While Timothy Kane, assistant director of student activities, said volunteers could still be involved in either program, work-study students’ site preferences and schedules are taken into account before volunteers are placed at the remaining spots available in elementary and middle schools across the District.

Kane said that once all of the work-study applications are taken into consideration for the limited positions in both Jumpstart and D.C. Reads, there are not many spots left for volunteers.

This year, Jumpstart is taking about 66 GW students into the program, and D.C. Reads has about 350 spots available for GW students. Kane said that so far, most participants in these programs have work-study grants. He added that it would not be fair to the schools and learning centers to place too many tutors in the classroom at one time.

“We have to take the client’s capacity into consideration,” he said. “The teachers are so overworked and the students are so in need, so we’re just trying to accommodate them.”

Kane also said that both programs are designed for work-study students because of the job-like commitment required. He said students who are getting paid have a reason to stick with the program, despite the time commitment, as opposed to those who are tutoring as unpaid volunteers.

“If someone has federal work-study, that is an incentive for a student to follow through with the tutoring,” he said.

Jumpstart mentors, who are required to complete 300 hours of work per academic year, are paired up with pre-school students in the community to help prepare them for elementary school. D.C. Reads was established under former President Bill Clinton’s administration in response to the America Reads challenge, which sought to ensure that every student acquired basic reading skills by the end of the third grade.

Kane said that it is important that students who enroll in the program do not quit when they see the level of commitment it requires because many of the D.C. public school students that GW students work with come from broken homes.

“It’s difficult for the students to go through another round of abandonment,” he said.

While the University offers work-study positions through various campus departments such as the Community of Living and Learning Center, the admissions office and specific academic departments, many students who receive these grants opt to work at either Jumpstart or D.C. Reads.

The high salary may be particularly attractive to work-study students; in both Jumpstart and D.C. Reads programs, the government pays students a $12-per-hour wage. Also, at Jumpstart, each mentor receives an additional $1,000 educational grant from AmeriCorps, a national organization that works with service groups across the country. At work-study jobs at the University, the government pays 75 percent of the salary while the respective department pays the remaining 25 percent.

Work-study students who participate in the program said tutoring D.C. public school students fulfills both a desire to work in community service programs and helps ease their financial needs to attend GW.

Rusty O’Kane, a senior and work-study recipient, said he had been involved with the Jumpstart program up until last week, when he accepted another job offer.

“It’s a great program that doesn’t get enough recognition,” he said.

Joe Karlya, who was recruited by O’Kane, his roommate, also fulfills his work-study obligations through the Jumpstart program.

“It gives people who are always at the University a chance to be with kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds,” he said.

Cat Scott, a work-study recipient and the student program assistant for D.C. Reads, said that, like most students who qualify for work-study, she needed some sort of job to help defray tuition costs. D.C. Reads allows her to give back to the community and receive her work-study grant at the same time.

“I am so lucky that the government has a program (like this) for me,” she said, adding that without this type of work-study program, she would be unable to tutor D.C. public school students since she would have to find another job to support herself through college.

While Jumpstart and D.C. Reads are often filled by work-study students, the Office of Community Service offers other less intensive tutoring programs for volunteers. The Neighbors Project, a GW program that coordinates student volunteer work in 35 community agencies, offers opportunities at Bright Beginnings, a child development center in Northwest D.C.; the on-campus School Without Walls near 22nd and G streets; and a Big Brothers/Big Sisters Latino outreach incentive. All are within walking distance from campus.

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