Mentoring program brings professionals, kids together
Radio broadcaster sparks kids interest in academics
By Julie Filby, firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo by James Baca/DCR
There are 50,455 seats in Coors Field. On Monday 35,000 seats were filled. On Tuesday, 500 fewer seats were filled than Monday. On Wednesday, there were 1,000 more than Tuesday. How many seats were filled on Wednesday?
If you came up with 35,500 seats, you might be smarter than a fifth-grader, to borrow the title of a past TV game show.
That was just one of several math problems submitted by the combined fifth-grade classes at St. Pius X School in Aurora as part of the IBM and Colorado Rockies Baseball Math Challenge, an activity of the school’s IBM MentorPlace program.
IBM MentorPlace is a volunteer initiative that brings adult professionals and students together in online relationships to focus on academics, specifically “to learn the pleasures and rewards of math and science,” according to IBM mentor Marelyne Chung.
Chung—an application, development and maintenance manager for IBM in Denver, and mother of three students at St. Pius X—serves as the school’s e-mentor.
“Many professional people wanted to volunteer in their community’s schools, but couldn’t because of work schedules and the need to travel,” she told the Denver Catholic Register. “With e-mentoring, IBMers visit the classroom at the beginning of the school year, set expectations, then communicate with students” on a variety of projects.
St. Pius X is the only Catholic school in Colorado where IBM has MentorPlace volunteers. During this, the pilot year for the school, fifth-graders worked once a week in the technology lab, according to Sharon Boisvert, who teaches fifth grade along with Carol Tufano.
In addition to the Math Challenge, they took a virtual tour of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia; studied news delivery and various social media technologies; and learned about “The Sweet Science of Chocolate”; among other activities.
“It’s sparked a lot of interest in the children,” said Boisvert. “It’s really expanded their horizons, as far as what’s available. It’s been good for them.”
Student Gabe Cordoba, 11, has enjoyed the program.
“IBM MentorPlace is really fun,” he said. “Everybody’s into it. We like how we get a new segment almost every month.”
His favorite segment thus far was the Rockies Math Challenge. To recognize their efforts, 10-year broadcaster for the Rockies, Jack Corrigan of 850 KOA-AM, visited the classroom April 18.
Corrigan, a parishioner of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and product of parochial schools in his native Cleveland, shared lessons related to communication, academics, faith, and looking to the future.
Growing up on a cul-du-sac on St. Anthony Lane in Cleveland, a street populated with 106 children, he said there was always a game of baseball, kickball or kick-the-can in progress, and he provided the play-by-play.
“I was ‘The Voice of St. Anthony Lane,’” he shared in that familiar voice that area radio listeners associate with the Rockies. “That’s where it started for me … at the same age as you guys.”
He worked hard to become a successful broadcaster, and continues to do so today.
“I know how blessed I was by God to be able to go after a job that not many people get to do,” he said. “And I know how hard I have to work to keep it.”
He told students they’ll be surprised by how much they’ll use the knowledge they are gaining now in math, science and language arts when they are adults—and he illustrated the example of figuring batting averages.
“Chase your dreams!” he said in closing. “You never know what might happen.”
There are 100 IBM volunteers working with 70 classrooms along the Front Range, mentoring about 2,000 students. The software provides a safe online environment for children, according to Chung.
“The mentor can log on any time and any place where they have access to the web,” she said. “But students access MentorPlace only in the classroom environment.”
Conversations are secure and accessible to teachers at any time, and all e-mails are archived. Volunteers are trained on the software, which includes topics such as meteorology, science fair projects and social science.
“The mentors are (like) coaches,” she said. “(They’re) charged with providing students academic assistance and career counseling, while letting them know adults care about their issues and concerns.”