Lindsay Ryan, 27 helps student study for her spelling test. Photo by Nery Rodriguez

BY: Nery Rodriguez 

Every Thursday, medical student Ify Ike walks into the Ferry Avenue Library in Camden, NJ with her school books in one hand and a bag filled with bananas, grapes and kiwis in the other. She is the director of a student run organization called “Tutor Time” that promotes positivity, learning and diversity in the Camden area.

Started in 2013, Tutor Time is just one of the many programs Cooper Medical School at Rowan University offers as part of their “service-learning requirement.” The learning requirement allows med students the opportunity to work with Camden residents. The organization gives kids an opportunity to increase their knowledge and come together in a safe after-school environment.

Ike, 25 of Maplewood, NJ is a second year medical student. Her involvement with the tutoring program started one afternoon when she accidentally sat in on a meeting while studying in the library last year. Since then not only does she attend regularly, but she works behind the scenes to ensure kids can succeed after they leave.

One of the goals Ike hopes to reach is to get students into college from their own love of school.

“The goal I’m trying to have for the program is to set up a place for the kids to do their homework and also a safe spot for them to come so they’re not outside doing something crazy,” Ike said.

The children who attend Tutor Time come to the library from 3-6 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. There is no limit on how many times a week kids can go and while there they have the opportunity to get help with homework, study, play games, eat healthy snacks and read books.

According to the National Literacy Association 49 percent of Camden residents read below a second grade level. Since Ferry Avenue is the only available library in Camden, Tutor Time hopes to get more volunteers and tutors to keep increasing reading, good learning habits and diversity to its young members.

Kids do arts and crafts while they wait to get picked up. Photo by Nery Rodriguez

While Tutor Time is a great opportunity to get kids in Camden more involved with school, it also helps promotes diversity with the help of learning games and reading about different cultures from around the world. The children interact with medical students of all different ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Lindsay Ryan, 27 of Lino Lakes, MN is a former high school teacher and in her second year with Tutor Time. She enjoys making education fun for the students who spend their afternoons at the library.

Ryan sees the organization as a good way to show kids first hand that success does not discriminate against race, gender, religion or where you are from.

New tutor Sajjad Sabir, 26 plays a game of Uno with a young girl. Photo by Nery Rodriguez

“They see black medical students and I think that’s great because it shows them something they can achieve. It also exposes them to other people with different cultural backgrounds,” Ryan said.

The children of Tutor Time are not the only ones learning something each day -the volunteers also take something away each time they set foot in the library.

Cooper Medical School requires its students to perform 40 hours of community service, which they call a “learning service requirement”.

Cheryl Hou, 30 of Marlboro, NJ is in her first year with Tutor Time and learns just as much from the students as they do from her. The requirement from Cooper is more than volunteering, it allows medical students to work in different and unique settings they may never experience.

“They provide you with the opportunity to not only serve the community, but learn as well. That’s why it’s called ‘Service Learning’ because we go out into the community and get the chance to connect to other people away from the classroom,” Hou said.