ARAC Head Tutors in training

Connecting with the Community

Guest post by David Allen | Duke Divinity School; America Reads/America Counts Graduate Assistant

As a Graduate Assistant for America Reads/America Counts (ARAC), I take seriously the notion that Duke students should be invested in the larger Durham community. When I was in college, it took me a while before I felt like I was at “home” at my university. It wasn’t until I began to learn more about local culture, events, and politics that I felt like a member. One of the best parts about going to a school like Duke is that the university is embedded in a city that is rich with character, history, and depth. We hear from our tutors  that they want to get to know Durham better and get outside of the “Duke Bubble” that they live in during the week. 

Tutoring with ARAC is a great way for Duke students to leave campus grounds to connect and learn with young people, while simultaneously investing in the success of the Durham community.

In 2018, over 90 percent of our tutors responded that through their time working with ARAC they had not only gotten to know Durham better but also felt like they had become members of the Durham community. 

ARAC Head Tutor, Semhal Araya, said her favorite part of tutoring is having a built-in part of her week where she gets to interact with the Durham community. As a Head Tutor, Semhal helps train other tutors in not only their teaching skills but also their knowledge of the area.

“In my meetings, I feel that it’s been most helpful in the beginning to discuss the types of sites that ARAC caters to and general Durham demographics because a lot of the [Duke] students aren’t familiar with the area.” 

We also make a concerted effort to provide information to our tutors about historic injustices and racism that has existed in Durham. For instance, ARAC Program Coordinator, Chi Vo, leads workshops on housing inequality in Durham every year that help tutors better grasp what is happening in the city which can affect our young people and schools. 

At ARAC, we work to ensure that when tutors engage in the community, they are well-equipped to thrive in the wonderfully diverse community of Durham.

We work with tutors to ensure that when they go into a Durham school or site, they can be as supportive and impactful as possible with a focus on building relationships with the young people and staff that they meet.

To ensure this, tutors spend time working through diversity, equity, and inclusion training to prepare them for their work in the classroom. For example, every tutor does implicit bias and cultural competency training before they begin the semester. We work with tutors to ensure that when they go into a Durham school or site, they can be as supportive and impactful as possible with a focus on building relationships with the young people and staff that they meet.

Former tutor, Christine Wei, explained how over the course of a semester or year, a deep, meaningful relationship forms between tutor and tutee. No longer are tutors just faces and names, but friends and confidants. Christine’s favorite tutoring experience was getting to know her students’ dreams and passions, which created a deeper connection than multiplication tables and reading comprehension.

Because of these types of trainings, our tutors can create lasting memories, form relationships, and be a part of the community in meaningful ways.

To learn more and apply, visit the America Reads/America Counts website.