Stern Students Offer Hands-on Help to Children at Public School on Lower East Side
Two juniors at Stern College for Women have launched a tutoring program aimed at strengthening the academic skills of students in a public elementary school on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

Helping Hands, co-founded by Avielle Shachter and Esther Shechtman, provides classroom support to students in grades pre-kindergarten through third at P.S. 15 The Roberto Clemente School.

Shachter, a biology major, and Shechtman, a psychology major, began planning their collective initiative in September. An employee of Learning Leaders, a nonprofit organization that pairs tutors and mentors with public schools, referred the Stern students to Lanette Murphy, P.S. 15’s parent coordinator. The group began tutoring the children at the end of November and has a roster of 24 volunteer tutors that it hopes to expand for the spring semester.

“Avielle and I started the program to give our peers at Stern an opportunity to gain teaching experience and to volunteer time to make a difference in the life of a child,” Shechtman said. “I was sure there were young students who could use a bit of extra help from smart, patient and friendly young women.”

Each Helping Hands volunteer has committed a minimum of a few hours for one day per week to serve as P.S. 15 classroom aides, providing assistance based on the teacher’s needs for that week. The students offer one-on-one instruction in students’ areas of difficulty, assist in class projects such as arts and crafts assignments and maintain a conducive learning environment by helping students focus and working with disruptive students. Each volunteer is assigned to one teacher.

Shachter hopes that Helping Hands will nurture students who may not receive the attention they deserve at home. “I hope the volunteers will go to the students’ plays and extracurricular events, to be more than just another tutor—to be their trusting friend,” she said.

Just a few days into the program, Shachter received feedback from volunteers commenting about the positive experiences they’ve had so far. “Helping Hands, if all works out successfully, will give Stern a great name in the public school system,” she added. “Hopefully, this will be a program that will stay as a part of all of the amazing opportunities that Stern has to offer.”