Seventh-grader Michelle Kenton is not like a lot of her classmates. At Hawthorn Leadership School for Girls, a school where many students are good readers, Kenton admits that she gets nervous reading aloud. But she loves math, often besting her peers on tests and assignments.
Hawthorn InvestiGirls, an after-school tutoring program led by Washington University in St. Louis students and supported by the university’s Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, is helping students like her get to the next level in both subjects. On Mondays, tutors provide extra help to struggling readers. And on Tuesdays, they offer enrichment to students who are excelling. Kenton goes both days.
“That’s one of the reasons why I came to Hawthorn — because I wanted more opportunities like these,” she said. “The tutors make learning fun.”
Washington University senior Rachel Harris leads the group of 33 InvestiGirls tutors and works closely with teachers who have identified where each student needs support.
“Sure, homework help is important, but we think there are ways to be even more effective,” said Harris, who is studying education in Arts & Sciences. “By targeting students who are the opposite of the norm, we are making sure students are supported and challenged.”
The strategy is part of Hawthorn’s ongoing effort to bring a rigorous STEM-focused education to women of color — a population that is underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Founded by Mary Danforth Stillman in 2015, Hawthorn is Missouri’s first single-sex charter school and serves girls in middle and high school. Enrollment is open and tuition is free.
“We are constantly asking ourselves: ‘How can we work smarter?’” said Julie Hercules, Hawthorn’s dean of student life and community affairs. “By listening and customizing around the real needs of the students, the tutors are extending the work in the classroom.”
To read more about the Investi-girls program and Hawthorn's participation, click here.