Seven Chelsea students and their families utilized FitRec’s facilities such as the rock-climbing wall as part of Homework Help Mates’ annual "Spend an Afternoon at BU.”
For the past five years, the Homework Help Mates program has connected Chelsea Public School students with members of the BU community.
Jonathan Vargas, a student at Wright Middle School in Chelsea, said he had fun at the FitRec and enjoys the Homework Help Mates program.
"I was excited about the rock wall,” he said. "I like the program because I finish my homework easier and my grades are getting better.”
Vargas also said that he likes being able to work with the same volunteer every week.
In addition to rock-climbing, students munched on snacks and refreshments in the classroom and played basketball or volleyball in the gym.
Following FitRec activities, Homework Help tutors accompanied the groups and talked about their experiences in college and gave walking tours of West Campus.
"It’s a good idea for them to come and see the campus,” said on-site coordinator and BU alumnus (CAS ’08) Aaron Sarracino.
College of Arts and Sciences junior Ksenia Lanin, who is an intern at the Chelsea Public Schools, said the group is a collaborative effort between the BU chapter of Phi Iota Alpha, the oldest Latino fraternity, and the middle schools.
"In the ‘90s when the government of Chelsea fell apart, BU kind of took over the whole city and they also took over the schools,” she said. "There’s been a lot of collaboration, and BU’s School of Education kind of restructured Chelsea’s schools.”
Sarracino said the program also began because there was a need for an afterschool program for youth within the city.
"There wasn’t a place for them to go,” he said. "We also wanted to tie in some sort of academic support to help them with their grades and their studies.”
CPS Director Beatrice Cravatta said the collaboration between Phi Iota Alpha and the schools began after one of the PR lab students came on-board to work in public relations with the schools.
"[The PR lab student] had a friend who was part of Phi Iota Alpha,” she said. "We had a meeting with the president at the time and they said they would do it and so we started a partnership with them.”
Homework Help Mates also tutors middle school students Tuesday through Thursday.
"[The students] love it because they’re getting the chance to experience college,” said CAS senior and President of the BU chapter of Phi Iota Alpha Serame Castillo. "They realize how far we go and how much time we put into it so they’re very appreciative.”
The total number of middle school students who participate changes each semester, but Sarracino said that the group has about five to 10 volunteers a day.
"The volunteers are really what drive the program,” he said.
Those involved have different takes on why the program is important.
"Our kids need the help and the encouragement,” Cravatta said. "I think they also need to see that college is something they can do and is reachable.”
School of Management sophomore Elaine Lin, another volunteer, said her favorite part of the program is getting to know some of the kids.
"They all have great stories and personalities,” she said. "Everyone should definitely give it a try. It’s really fulfilling, you get a lot out it. . .you become a better person and learn to have a lot more patience.”