Morgan Park Academy and Burr Oak Elementary students during the January day of service.

By Tayler Malecki ’16

During our annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Morgan Park Academy students leave campus to give back to our community. But I never knew I would also be receiving so much.

I was part of a group of MPA student volunteers that day who visited Burr Oak Elementary School, a public school in nearby Calumet Park. Assigned to work with a class of third-graders, I was really nervous at first. I wanted to be able to help them and be a role model. The kids were excited to see me, and though some were nervous too, I have never felt so much love. The kids gave me pictures, stickers, and all kinds of cute gifts.

Then it was time to go. I never expected that to be as hard as it was. The kids were sad and I was nearly crying when they asked if I was coming back the next day.

On the way back to school, I was thinking how much these kids inspired me and how I could continue to help them. When we got back, I had all these ideas in my head about how to go further.

I brought my ideas immediately to Mrs. Drown, one of the faculty leaders on our trip. I told her that our one-day service was a great start, but I wanted to do more for the kids. I asked her about doing a pen-pal system of sorts, and she helped me develop the idea into a larger online tutoring program.

Through Edmodo, a website we use that’s like Facebook for schools, MPA high school students give the Burr Oak children math problems and other help that they may need. We chat with them on Skype and even have an end-of-the-school-year picnic planned.

The online tutoring works in small groups. I, for example, have two groups. In one group, my classmate Claire Mordi and I tutor Ahmiyah and Jessika. We create weekly problems for them to solve and help them with any other school-related questions they ask. Usually we focus on math, but occasionally we will discuss science or any topic they are learning. The kids are very sweet and they enjoy the program so much.

Being involved with this project has been a wonderful part of my spring semester. I felt like I could make an impact for these kids, and it has been so rewarding being able to do that.

Tayler is a junior at Morgan Park Academy.