BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Mike Zobrist was heading to a classroom with his second grade friend Tujuan Beachamp when cameras caught up with him. Beachamp knew he was on television, so he smiled broadly. However, kids in the Reading and Math Friends programs of Volunteers in Public Schools are usually happy to get out of their ordinary class and meet with an adult who gives them individual attention. Zobrist tries to visit his math and reading friends at least once a week.
The two entered a room that Bernard Terrace has set aside for VIPS tutoring. Stacks and stacks of plastic bags of toys designed for counting and puzzles designed for drilling on essential answers kids should know were visible on a nearby bookcase. Zobrist, a retired Albemarle employee, pulled out several paperback books and three or four puzzle/toy bags before sitting at a kid-sized desk with the 8-year-old Beachamp.
"He's really improving," Zobrist said. "He has done very well since we began doing this back in September."
Zobrist was originally assigned to Beachamp as a math tutor and they cover that subject, but his teacher said the 8-year-old needs reading help as well. Mike went through a notebook where sight words are listed on pages that are gradually more difficult. The two are now on page eight.
"Now this is a hard one," Zobrist said, as Beachamp peered at the word.
"Us?" Beachamp guessed.
"No. Not 'us.' 'Us' would be just two letters," Zobrist explained.
He then wrote a 'u' and an 's' on the page. He also pointed to the word in question.
"This one has an 'e,' which makes this 'use.'"
Words like this one is a necessity for kids in second grade to learn in order to stay on track with age-appropriate words. Though it looks difficult, Zobrist said a person does not have to be a teacher to do this. In fact, as 9News is watching, they played a simple game of dominos, where the lines of dots are used as an equation. Zobrist pointed at the dominos on the end of the chain of black tiles they linked.
"Five plus zero. What do we get?" he asked while pointing at five dots.
"Five." Beachamp answered confidently.
Zobrist saw how effective this kind of tutoring was for a child. Already a faithful member of Broadmoor Presbyterian Church, an after-school program was born for middle and high school students. Zobrist said at the church's program inception, there were very few programs for that age group at the time. Now, seven years later, about 16 kids regularly attend to learn the intricacies of high school algebra, geometry, trigonometry, but also foreign languages. It has whatever the students need.
The day a news crew visited there were four adults, each working with one or two students. Broadmoor Presbyterian has a generous bunch of volunteers. Zobrist said his church was perfect for this volunteer opportunity because of its member base.
"We have a lot of retired engineers and a lot of retired teachers and so," Zobrist stated.
So, you're telling me they're good at math?
"They're good at math or they're good at Spanish or they're good at English, so we've been able to, I guess, utilize all the capability and talents that we have in our church," Zobrist replied.
Mike Zobrist said you should consider helping out. The need is great at VIPS.
"We've probably got about 700 kids that we're working with in terms of reading and math. But I think the last numbers that I heard, the teachers have basically placed 1,400 on the list that they would like to have paired with an adult. So, we need a lot more adults to come help with both reading and math," Zobrist added.
Capital One Bank, the United Way's Volunteer Center and WAFB are proud to honor Power of 9 volunteers like Mike Zobrist.