Clarion University students gain professional and educational experience outside the classroom in a setting that the community has come to depend upon.
The Clarion Community Learning Workshop provides educational support programs for learners of all ages, and continues to adapt its services and programs to meet the needs of Clarion and its surrounding communities. The Community Learning Workshop took a brief hiatus because of COVID-19, but returned in the fall.
The workshop is known for being an asset to the community as well as the students
who work as tutors there.
While you'd expect future teachers to be the most common group of students to work as tutors, the workshop isn't just a hub for education majors. At the Community Learning Workshop, students from a variety of majors use the skills they learn in the classroom to enrich the community and grow as individuals in the process.
The workshop has seen its share of speech pathology and other majors as tutors since it opened its doors in the fall of 2013. Zoe Richwine is one such student who graduated in May 2020 with a bachelor of science degree in speech pathology and audiology and is now a student in Clarion's speech pathology master's program.
"It's a great experience even if you're not an education major," said Richwine.
Richwine said the experience made her a better listener, which will come in handy in her career. She also believes the experience set her apart from others professionally.
That's not to say tutoring is easy.
"It definitely tests you," Richwine said. "It can be challenging."
Richwine said the experience has given her greater patience – a useful skill for any profession.
Katlyn Corbett, a former tutor and graduate of the B.S. in speech pathology and audiology and master's in speech pathology ('19, '21G respectively) programs, said her experience at the workshop helped prepare her for settings in which she conducts one-one-one therapy.
McKenzie Rodriguez, a 2020 graduate in secondary education in English with a minor in Spanish, said she learned responsibility, accountability and classroom management during her tutoring time at the workshop.
Rodriguez said the experience heightened her empathy for others.
Working at the Community Learning Workshop made it clear to Rodriguez how much poverty there is in the area and the ways families struggle because of it. "We see these kids and their families every day."
Seeing students and families every day also leads to real connections to the children in the area.
"It's so fun seeing the kids with their different personalities," said Samantha "Sammi" Sanker, a 2021 early childhood education graduate. "The kids – they definitely changed my life."
Sanker said this experience affirmed for her that she had chosen the right major. "I was very nervous. I had never been in a teaching position before."
However, Sanker said no one expects you to be an expert and tutors lean on each other for each other's individual expertise.
It's also an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the college classroom.
For example, Stephanie Slike, a 2020 graduate in secondary education in English, said the experience helped her with pacing and positive reinforcement in teaching.
The Community Learning Workshop also gave Slike, who is naturally shy, a sense of belonging.
It is for that reason that Andrew Gilara, a 2020 secondary education in social studies with minors in history and political science, regrets not becoming a tutor sooner.
"I've made some friends through here," Corbett agreed.
The slow turnover of students was unexpected.
"I don't think we expected the loyalty," said Leah Chambers, Ph.D. of the students they have hired over the years.
Chambers and Rich Lane, Ph.D., both professors of English, worked together to found the Community Learning Workshop eight years ago after recognizing the need for such a place in the community.
Often the needs and the curiosity of the students stretches beyond the reasons they
come to the workshop.
Gilara said the experience was good practice for the classroom as "you have to be quick on your feet," when working with the students who come through the door. Gilara said you never know what the day will bring.
The tutors also have the freedom to engage with students with their own creative and educational ideas. Gilara created a map activity for the students where a character named Walter travels to a different city in the world, thereby teaching the students the history and culture of the particular location. Gilara's idea is one of the ways Clarion University students keep youngsters coming back to the workshop beyond their normal tutoring needs.
Corbett also enjoyed coming up with creative ways to help the students learn and believes she has seen children improve in their studies from year to year.
"It's a really great opportunity. Everyone should have a chance to work here," Corbett said.
To learn about programs, volunteer opportunities, or how you can support this free
educational resource, please contact the Community Learning Workshop via email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 814 297 8315.
You can donate directly to the Community Learning Workshop at https://www.givecampus.com/94doay.
Follow the workshop on Facebook and Instagram @clarionclw for program updates and to see community learning in action. Hours of operation are from 3:15 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and is expected to be back in operation by the end of January.