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Sun City residents lend experience, wisdom

Tutors help turn around struggling students
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Happy tears were cried by Ed and Dorris Kerry last Thursday in a Phoenix High School classroom. That?s because the pair, who are Lincoln residents and tutors at the school, learned just how much the students they help appreciate them. The Kerrys have been tutoring at the school this school year, after deciding they wanted to work with high school students the previous year, Dorris Kerry said. ?I had taught some elementary school and have always loved teaching middle school and high school,? Dorris Kerry said. Phoenix High School English teacher Jennifer Nelson said the Kerrys lead a ?small group of Sun City community volunteer tutors.? ?(The tutors) have made a huge impact on the most at-risk teenagers in this city,? Nelson said. ?They are retired senior citizens who are working tirelessly with the most difficult group of kids they could ask for. And the kids love them.? Tracy Gruber, math, economics and government teacher at Phoenix High School, said the tutors provide individual attention to the students. The students are on individual study plans and, she said, going to the tutors is a way for them ?to not worry about who is sitting next to them and what they think? when the students have a question about school work. ?They?ve helped a lot,? Gruber said. ?The biggest graduating class is this year.? Nate Wright, 18, said receiving tutoring ?has changed my overall motivation and outlook on life.? Wright, graduating on June 8, has plans to go into construction and is also working as a waiter at Beermann?s, which is owned by his grandfather. ?They (tutors) sit down one-on-one with you and actually talk to you,? Wright said. ?Being able to sit down one-on-one helps.? Dorris Kerry said there are now seven tutors, with two additional tutors starting in the fall. ?Not only are they making these teenagers feel that they actually matter, some for the first time, Kerry said, but they are also personally responsible for the graduation of many of our community?s toughest teenagers.? The tutors are available for ?drop-in tutoring? on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, Dorris Kerry said. Kyle Haines, 19, is graduating this year and attributes his success to Ed Kerry?s help. Haines said he came into tutoring ?way behind on credits.? ?Mr. Kerry, he felt like a father figure,? Haines said. ?He encouraged me and pushed me to keep going.? Haines said both the teachers and tutors at Phoenix ?helped and were able to fight for me to graduate from Lincoln High School.? The reason Haines said he fell behind in his credits was putting off his schoolwork ?until the last minute.? ?(Through tutoring), I learned I?m smart enough to do it,? Haines said. Headed for the Army in July, Ed Kerry?s help is ?the reason I totally turned around,? Haines said. ?It?s great to see someone realize their potential and expanded what they thought before was a limit is not a limit,? Ed Kerry said. ?When you see people start to develop their potential and a light goes off, it (gives you) a great sense of pride.? Dorris Kerry also leads a small book group, which is currently reading and studying ?The House on Mango Street? by Sandra Cisneros. ?You have no idea how proud I am of this group,? Dorris Kerry told The News Messenger. ?Not only do we read the book but we work on comprehension, critical thinking, people skills and writing skills.? Two of the students, senior Boyce Golly, 19, and junior Sean Del Villar, 18, wrote a poem inspired by the book. ?I fell behind in different classes,? Golly said. ?I came to tutoring to catch up, and the more I get done, I can excel.? Golly said 220 credits are needed to graduate and each student is required to earn at least two credits per week. Tommy Hawkins, who is also in the book club and receives tutoring, is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed after doctors found two brain tumors when he was 16. Hawkins said he underwent radiation and the cancer is now gone. ?I wanted to prove the doctors wrong,? Hawkins said. ?They told me (school) would be extremely difficult with my memory problems.? Hawkins said he, too, enjoys the one-on-one attention received during tutoring. ?We?re not just doing the work but understanding and going deep into the work,? Hawkins said. ?Like, if we don?t get something, they will work with us non-stop until we understand.? Many of the students The News Messenger spoke with said that both the Kerrys and the other tutors are like family to them and have encouraged them to stay in school. ?I?m overwhelmed. I didn?t know that,? Dorris Kerry said through tears. ?To hear that from young adults, you never know what they?re going to walk away with and what they will go on with and apply in their lives.?