Correction: A previous headline misstated the number of schools where free tutoring for preschoolers has returned. Elon News Network regrets this error. 

As a fifth grader at Sylvan Elementary, Scotty McMinn likes science and reading, working through “Titanic” right now. But solving math problems doesn’t come as easily to him. 

“It tests me a little bit more. It tests how I think and how I solve the problems,” McMinn said. 

To compensate for his struggles in the classroom, his mom Tammy McMinn signed him up for the It Takes a Village Project last fall. It is a free after school tutoring program for ABSS elementary school students that aims to refine students’ math, science, and literary skills. 

Tammy said right away she saw Scotty become more motivated, socially and academically. 

“He seemed to get it, and people were encouraging him and helping him to want to work harder and he wanted that for himself too,” Tammy said. “It’s worth it.”

More families like the McMinn’s will be able to benefit from after school tutoring now because of a $50,000 grant from Alamance Burlington School System.  

Starting at the end of the month, the Little Village Project, a subset of the It Takes a Village Project, will resume after a three year hiatus due to a lack of resources during the COVID pandemic in 2020. The program, founded in 2014, is designed specifically for pre-K students, in hopes of preparing them for kindergarten. 

Sydney Simmons, the program coordinator of It Takes a Village, explained that there was a greater need to tutor elementary students, which is her focus. She said the needs have shifted yet again, and it is now time to focus on pre-K students too. 

That focus will be possible due to the grant that came from ABSS Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a program ruled out by the federal government to help schools recover from the impacts of the pandemic. 

The decision to provide the grants In spring of 2022,  the former school board voted to divide more than $400,000 among nine enrichment programs, including the It Takes a Village Project. 

Simmons said she is excited to put these funds to use starting with the first tutoring sessionFeb. 22. She wanted to thank the board for allocating the money the way they did.  

“This is really telling of how important that the village work is, and that ABSS values that partnership as they continue to invest in that partnership,” Simons said. “I'm just super grateful for everyone on the committee that decided to to grant these funds.” 

The money will be used to pay teachers and liaisons, provide meals during the tutor sessions and buy materials for learning exercises. The tutors, who are Elon University students, work on a volunteer basis and will not receive any of the money.  

Joseph Thompson has worked with such volunteer tutors at Sylvan Elementary. The third grader would rather trade Pokemon cards at school than practice math and reading. His mom, Candice Thompson, enrolled Joseph in the Village Project in the fall when she saw him struggling.  

“It gives him the opportunity to have extra help when he needs it and he likes to go and enjoy being with other people and experience new things,” Candice said. 

After the academic group exercises during the tutoring sessions, every student is sent home with dinner. The food and the tutoring are free for families. Candice said the fact that she doesn’t have to pay anything gives her peace of mind. 

“I ain’t gotta worry about having to come up with the money or anything like that to fund extra tutoring or anything like that,” Candice said. 

Tammy agrees. She works for United Health Care and is the sole breadwinner for her family of four. 

“It means a lot,” Tammy said. “It really helps tremendously because I don’t have to worry about paying someone to help my child but still getting the help that he needs.”

Tammy said she is so happy with the tutoring that she is enrolling her younger daughter in the program too. But it’s not just the academic support she is pleased with, it’s the mentoring that stands out to her. 

“Having someone older than him, as a peer,” Tammy said. “It developed his communication skills — being able to speak with people in better ways than an elementary kid normally is.” 

This was especially prevalent to Tammy when her husband, Scotty’s dad, had a heart attack last fall. Tammy said the It Takes a Village teachers, tutors and coordinators helped Scotty feel comfortable. He was able to articulate his feelings in a safe environment. 

“I am smart. I am kind. I am beautiful. I like everyone and I will have a good day,” Scotty recites every morning before he gets out of the car in front of Sylvan Elementary. 

Tammy attributes some of his confidence to the It Takes a Village Project. That’s why she encourages other families to sign up for the Little Village.

The Little Village is starting at Haw River Elementary at the end of the month and will work with 50 pre-K students. Next fall the program is expected to expand to South Graham Elementary and other schools over the next two and a half years.

“It's super important when we're speaking of the direction and the path for our kids,” Simons said. 

Tutoring sessions will be held once a week on Wednesdays, excluding Haw River’s spring break and Elon University’s spring break. If pre-K families at Haw River Elementary are interested in enrolling their children in Little Village, Simons said they should reach out to the childrens’ teacher.