Seven years ago, Dr. Lawrence Fausti brought his Bethune-Cookman College students to an inner-city elementary school in Daytona Beach, Florida to help tutor the children one-on-one. Regional statistics indicated that over 60% of these children enter school unprepared for the demands of education and burdened with limited social interaction. Dr. Fausti was committed to closing this “academic gap.”
The Word Wizards tutoring program was formed to provide Turie. T. Small Elementary students with academic role models and to create a sense of belonging for both tutors and students within their schools and community. In addition, the program serves to encourage B-CC students to value their educational experience, while providing critical mentoring and tutoring skills to younger students. Set in an environment outside of the college classroom, Word Wizards fosters the firm belief that reading is a necessary and valuable lifetime skill.
The program began with 20 tutors and 25 elementary students working together one day a week for two hours. Over the years, it has evolved to include a network of volunteer support within the community and faculty, with hundreds of tutors and partnerships with Bethune-Cookman College, Embry-Riddle Aeronautics University and Daytona Beach Leisure Service Department. During the seven years this program has been in effect, over 500 children have received individual academic attention.
Students from kindergarten to fifth grade are tutored four days a week, with an emphasis in reading and math. Enrichment activities were later added to the program. Word Wizards promotes the education, socio-cultural growth, and empowerment of the community’s youth while providing an opportunity for continuous intellectual and professional growth, leadership, and service to others by students, tutors and mentors.
An observable trend of academic and social improvement was noted in the students, supported by testing data, teacher perception, in addition to staff and parental comments. On a district-mandated standardized test, continually increasing test scores were evident in math, reading, and language skills. Word Wizards also provides a vital connection between the college and the local community and continues to be supported by many tutors who volunteer for the program even after they satisfy their college community service component.
An educator for over 20 years, Dr. Fausti has teaching experience in college, elementary, and middle school. Originally from Freedom, Pennsylvania, Dr. Fausti was named Volusia County’s Education Volunteer of the Year, United Way’s Educational Adult Volunteer of the Year, and received the “President’s Award” from Bethune-Cookman College for his commitment to community service. He credits the success of this program to Principal Betty Powers, retired Principal Shirley Browder, his co-director, Dr. Gloria Markette, faculty peers from Bethune-Cookman College, and his B-CC Word Wizard tutoring students for their generous support and donation of time.