Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Engage Tuscaloosa aims to strengthen the local community

Courtesy of Engage Tuscaloosa

In 2012, Colby Leopard, then a student at the University, wanted to help middle and high school students with their reading skills, so he developed the idea of READ Alabama. 

READ Alabama soon became a part of Engage Tuscaloosa, a volunteer-based program overseen and developed by Honors College students, said Vicki Holt, the coordinator of educational outreach for the Honors College.  

Today Engage Tuscaloosa has been able to work with over 20 schools and has allowed over 100 UA students the opportunity to connect to the Tuscaloosa community each semester. 

Anna Moorman, the student director of Engage, has been pleased with the works students at the University has been able to do within the community.  

“Each child we mentor has a story, and it has been wonderful to get to see over 100 volunteers step up each semester to make a difference,” Moorman wrote. 

Moorman also said that Engage has opened her eyes to some of the educational needs in the Tuscaloosa community.  

There are currently seven programs within Engage: READ, BRIGHT, MathTastic, NoteABLE, MathTastic Jr., Boys Book Club and South Lamar Project. 

READ aims to encourage a love of reading within elementary schools through interactive lessons and reading books. 

Macy Schelp was the student director of READ before Moorman and wrote that she started volunteering with Engage as a way to break out of the University’s bubble. 

“The University can be a bubble, but stepping outside of it has allowed me to meet leaders in the community, connect with local students, and meet more people within the University itself,” Schelp wrote.  

Schelp also said that being involved with Engage allows UA students to build meaningful relationships and act as role models. 

The Boys Book Club, like READ, helps foster a love of reading for upper elementary boys.  

MathTastic helps middle school students through tutoring math lessons. Matthew Heidenreich is the director of MathTastic and has been volunteering with Engage for four semesters. 

Heidenreich wrote that Engage Tuscaloosa is a great opportunity to help someone along the academic journey and that by joining Engage, one has the chance to “give back and to make a tangible impact in the lives of growing students.” 

“I think the best moments of Mathtastic are when a student grasps a difficult concept that they’ve struggled with for a long time and realizes that they are capable of more than they expected from themself,” Heidenreich wrote.  

MathTastic Jr. is a separate program that works with upper elementary students on their math skills. 

BRIGHT focuses on introducing STEM concepts to pre school and kindergarten students through experiments and interactive lessons. Heavyn Savage has been the student director of BRIGHT since fall 2023. 

Savage wrote that her favorite part of volunteering at Engage has been hearing how excited the kids are from the teachers. 

NoteABLE teaches upper elementary students basic music skills, like playing the recorder. 

The South Lamar Project assists high school leaders in tutoring elementary students in vocabulary development.  

Tyease Peoples is the math specialist for Eastwood Middle School and said that both the students and UA volunteers have demonstrated an attitude of excitement each week. 

EMS and Engage have been working together for three years and as requested by the students, EMS will start an after-school program, Peoples said.  

Engage Tuscaloosa volunteers commit to one or more hourlong tutoring sessions each week. Those interested in volunteering can find the program that best fits them through Engage’s website or social media. Students fill out an application that can be found on Engage’s Instagram or in the Honors College newsletter. There is also an email list that honors students can be a part of for updates regarding Engage.  

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