Sammie Lou Kreiger surely isn’t the first adult to read the “Magic Tree House,” “Twilight” or “Harry Potter” series. But the reason she reads these books is unusual. They are the favorites of the girl Krieger has tutored since the student was in first grade.
“I think (my student) and I are unusual because we’ve been together six years,” she said. “I’m the only tutor that she’s had here, and I tell her each year if she wants to find a younger tutor that she can, but she never has, so I’m very happy.”
Krieger has volunteered for 16 years at Our Next Generation, a community-based nonprofit that offers after school, academic and enrichment programs.
ONG offers three programs geared toward elementary, middle and high school students. Each program focuses on the needs of the specific group, and literacy is an overarching focus. Krieger’s 11-year-old student, Ashley (not her real name), is in the weekly “Homework Club” program, where they work on homework, use flash cards and practice reading.
“We have a great literacy program that is really starting to get kids excited about reading – not necessarily force-feeding books on them,” said Codi Alger, public relations and volunteer manager at ONG.
Krieger said over the past six years, she’s seen great improvement in her student’s literacy.
“Reading is number one,” Krieger said. “I feel all of (the students’) learning is based on reading, whether it’s math or history, so I feel that’s a very important thing.”
When Krieger isn’t tutoring at the center, she makes an effort to stay in touch with her student, organizing summer outings to Discovery World and Chinese restaurants. She plans to take the student and her siblings Christmas shopping this year.
“Our goal is to create a true mentoring relationship, and we use homework help as the vehicle to develop that mentoring relationship,” Alger said. “(Krieger is) just another healthy person in (her student’s) life who’s consistent and shows up on time and is always kind of there to listen.”
ONG volunteers come from the community, local universities and congregations and, like Krieger, many have been tutoring since the “Homework Club,” was founded in the early 1990s by members of the former St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church. Although the program is not religiously affiliated, it is housed in the former church at 3421 W. Lisbon Ave. and is still closely tied to it.
“At that time the congregation members saw a need in the community for homework help, so they founded a program called the “Homework Club,” and that’s still one of the names we use today,” Alger said.
ONG’s progress has helped students overcome obstacles over the past 20 years, guiding many toward academic achievement and life skills.
“We find that students with a mentor are twice as likely to graduate from high school, and we work in a community where the graduation rate is 40 percent, so that’s a very important statistic for us,” Alger said. “We’re very proud we graduate over 95 percent of our seniors each year.”
Krieger has played an important role in the program’s success. “I’m a person who has never cared for statistics, but it’s so meaningful to hear the percentage of students that graduate from high school and that they do continue,” Krieger said. “It shows that there really is a need (for ONG).”
Four days a week, “Ashley” (not her real name) attends Our Next Generation, a community-based nonprofit that offers after-school academic and enrichment programs. Ashley and her tutor, Sammie Lou Krieger, have worked together for six years, meeting every Monday for a one-on-one tutoring session.
This story is part of a special report focusing on eight agencies that provide services to neighborhood residents in a variety of communities. Students from Marquette’s Diederich College of Communication created the pieces under the supervision of Prof. Herbert Lowe and NNS Editor Sharon McGowan.