Sometimes volunteers in community organizations like WOAHO take on a task because the need is undeniable. This is exactly what happened twenty years ago. Members of the West Orange African Heritage Organization noticed that Black, minority and new immigrant (now referred to as English Language Learners or ELL) students were struggling in the academic areas of Math and English. Leaders and members of WOAHO: James Adams, Gwendolyn Franklin, Drs. Louis and Marie Sangosse, E. Michael Taylor and others, came together to create a tutoring-corps. “Washington Elementary, where many of the African American and new immigrant students attended, was the focal point” said Gregg and Linda Bullock. The first tutoring sessions were held in the basement in the home of Drs. Louis and Marie Sangosse.
The Tutoring program was featured in the West Orange Chronicle: February 21, 2002: WOAHO “Organized and staffed a Tutoring Program at Washington Street School – September 2001.”
In coming together to create a Tutoring Program, WOAHO leaders and members were not contemplating a long-term or legacy program. They were addressing a very real and urgent need of struggling students. Twenty years later however, the WOAHO Tutoring Program has become an integral if unofficial part of the West Orange educational curriculum. Annually, volunteers are replied upon to help bring up to standard at risk students in the areas of Math, English and other subjects. The TP has grown from volunteer members of the organization to include volunteer students from WOHS and Seton Hall Prep.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed systemic inequities in healthcare, biased treatment by law enforcement and an achievement gap in public education. The WOAHO Tutoring program is as much a necessity today when it was founded. Among other inequities African American and new immigrant students face a digital-divide that could further inhibit their educational development in this time of forced online-only instruction. Come Fall 2021 a continuing and new generation of volunteers from the WOAHO Tutoring Program will step-up to the challenge of helping at risk students faced with new impediments to learning. The original founders of the WOAHO Tutoring may not have envisioned a legacy program but, a new generation of volunteers and students are building upon their foundation of good intentions and good deeds.
BRENT DRAPER SCOTT
Teaches Graduate Studies
at Mercy College