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Young Americans: Dubois Students Study Civics By Tutoring Tykes

Dusty Rhodes
NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS
Our American Voice Program Coordinator John Fontanetta and Dubois teacher Shalanda Gaines pose with student tutors.

I recently spent an evening at Springfield’s Dubois Elementary, with a group of tutors focused on helping the school’s youngest students — kindergarten through second grade.

But in this particular tutoring arrangement, everyone is learning. The older kids are in a program called Our American Voice, designed to bring civics lessons back to the younger grades. Students get an instructional course in citizenship, and then create their own community service project.

Dubois is one of 23 schools in Illinois participating in Our American Voice this year. Students from 16 of those schools will be in Springfield tomorrow May 2, to share their various projects with each other, and to meet legislators at the statehouse.

At Dubois, the students in this program meet after school once a week, for a class taught by Shalanda Gaines. She presented the idea of OAV to all 4th and 5th graders, and 10 ultimately signed up for the after-school class. They tutor one day a week in a staggered rotation of 30-minute sessions.

The program costs the school nothing. OAV is supported by the McCormick Foundation and other donors. Their "professional-looking shirts" were paid for by a donor.


After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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