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After-School Tutoring Programs Helpful to Neighborhood

Back of the Yards after school tutoring program
Photo by: Jackson A. Thomas

The Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC,) 1751 W. 47th St., is one of the oldest nonprofit community organizations in the United States. The council serves a great area of Chicago’s South Side and neighborhoods within the community. Residents of these communities experience high unemployment, juvenile delinquency, poor housing and education problems.

The BYNC after-school tutoring programs offer children and students with potential the hope they need to dismiss negative images and stereotypes of the Back of the Yards neighborhood.

According to David Lopez, a tutoring instructor in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, the BYNC’s programs are designed to aid students from local schools and help them improve in their homework and study skills.

Lopez said the program focuses mainly on math and reading because these are the subjects he and other volunteers find students need the most help in.

“When we get the report cards, we actually assess what they are doing good in and they are doing not so good in,” Lopez said. “Most the time, like 80 percent of the time, we find math and reading to be the bigger problems.”

While most would assume an after-school tutoring problem would strictly serve students who are close in proximity to the building it is held in, BYNC is not confined to providing help to only those in the neighborhood.

“A majority of students come from local schools,” Lopez said. “We have about 18 students [who] attend here we are currently serving. An average of between four and five [come from] Lara, Hedges, Chavez and Hamline. Other schools we serve are Uno Charter schools. A few students do come from there, such as Marias El Sego, Alexander Graham, Dallas Academy. We use to serve a school by Gold Coast too.”

Lopez said children in this neighborhood need tutoring because of the peer pressure put on them and violence in the neighborhood. Many students have a hard time paying attention or staying focused on what is being taught.

“It can be hard to actually find the time do homework in a violent area,” he said. “It becomes a little difficult, and some students can become inattentive when they are at school.”

Lopez said the after-school tutoring programs were created more than 10 years ago, and they came about because a necessity from students they were actually serving was seen.

“We’re an agency that provides tutoring, after-school computer classes and after-school dance classes. There was a need for students who were in those programs, so out of that came a need that was filled in.”

Samantha Raynoso, a secretary for BYNC, said the programs aim toward children who are between the ages of 8 and 13 years old and are divided into three different groups: 8- and 9-year-olds, 10- and 11-year-olds and 12- and 13-year-olds. She said third- and fourth-graders usually come in from 3 to 4 p.m., fifth- and sixth-graders come from 4 to 5 p.m. and seventh- and eighth-graders come from 5 to 6 p.m. There are a few high school students who come as well, and it’s all based around a class-like structure.

Lopez oversees the process and development of all the students who attend, and he said he has certain volunteers who come in to help. He said some are actually students who have been in the programs before, completed part of or majority of the programs and have moved on to high school.

“They usually come back because they like the program so much,” he said. “Now they want to give help to other students who are here, and some might need community service hours to graduate.”

Although the Back of the Yards neighborhood is predominantly Hispanic, Lopez said the council doesn’t discriminate against anyone, and other students from other ethnic groups have come into the programs in the past. The council does have open registration, so a student would easily be able to join the tutoring programs.

“Students just need to come in and fill out an application,” he said. “The space is kind of small, but we try to take in as many as we can because it’s quality versus quantity.”

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