Project Phoenix is a youth tutoring/mentoring program coordinated by a group of dedicated student volunteers at The College of William and Mary. The students established the program six years ago. They recognized the opportunity to make an impact the lives of middle school youth who are not currently achieving to their fullest potential and noted a responsibility to serve as effective role models. Each week students tutor at three local middle schools, working with approximately 20 students at each school. Volunteers tutor students individually followed by an educational program that is conceived, organized and facilitated by volunteers. Volunteers also organize weekly Saturday education programs. Program areas include Career Exploration, Civic Responsibility, Culture/Education, Life Skills and Health and Fitness. A sample of programs include: a demonstration at the local fire house, an annual etiquette dinner, a trip to the Virginia Living Museum, historical scavenger hunt and trips to local museums.
As a result of participating in various educational activities, college volunteers motivate and inspire middle school students to want to succeed. The interactions build confidence in middle school students and expose them to experiences they would likely never have an opportunity to take part in.
Project Phoenix works in partnership with guidance counselors from each middle school. Students who are not currently achieving academically and/or socially are offered an opportunity to participate in the program. Counselors discuss the program with each student’s parent or guardian and determine whether Project Phoenix fits the student’s needs prior to being accepted into the program. Periodic communication with guidance counselors and family members is integral to the success of the program.
Project Phoenix has approximately 60 volunteer who serve as tutors and mentors. Each year 12 students accept leadership positions on a volunteer executive board. These students plan each tutoring session and weekend activities. In addition the volunteers coordinate transportation, orientation, training, team building activities and program evaluation, among other responsibilities. These volunteers are integral to the function and success of the program. Without their tireless efforts, the program would not exist. The corps of volunteers gives more than 10,000 hours each academic year to make the program a success. Since the inception, approximately 600 students have volunteered an estimated 50,000 hours to the program and the community.
Project Phoenix has touched the lives of college students and local middle school students. Coming together weekly, the students recognize the similarities among them and educate one another. For many middle school children the interaction with volunteers is the highlight of their week. They are reminded that people indeed care about their well-being.
The program literally changes lives. Middle school graduates of the program have gone on to accept leadership positions in high school and now some of the graduates are attending college. The students involved with Project Phoenix make a conscious choice to make a difference in the lives of children.