Project Coach: Connection, Content, and Mentoring

Jordan Dubin '15

Contributing Writer

Project Coach was co-founded by Sam Intrator and Don Siegel in 2004. Its mission is to bridge the economic, educational and social gaps faced by Springfield youth. Project Coach helps over 100 students today.

Project Coach’s head academic coaches have various reasons for getting involved with teens from Springfield, Mass., including giving back, seeking out new challenges and empowering young people. Project Coach holds Monday Night Academy at Smith College during which the head academic coaches lead Smith tutors in tutoring the Project Coach students. Later on in the evening, Project Coach Director Jo Glading-DiLorenzo gathers the entire group of teens into a classroom.

“During this time, we focus on a skill that we think is important for success as a coach,” said Glading-DiLorenzo.

Kayra Lopez ’16, said she joined Project Coach so she can give back to students in an urban setting: “Project Coach is a great way for me to learn how to become a positive role model for teenagers from a similar background of mine. My goal is to be a mirror that reflects opportunity for students who come from a similar urban environment.”

Adding on, Lisa Lho ’15 claimed that Smith students are a good match for the Springfield teens. “There is no better mentor than someone who has already gone through the process,” said Lho.

The tutees, who come from diverse backgrounds, have great academic potential displayed by their strong desire to become leaders in their community. These high school students coach, teach and mentor elementary school students.

“Through the coaching, teens learn essential life leadership skills: communicating, resolving conflict, motivating others and thinking strategically,” said Intrator.

The teens are at high-risk because they are suffering academically and have minimal parent involvement. Project Coach works to optimize the students’ potential by providing academic assistance, helping develop students’ interpersonal skills and forming close tutee-tutor relationships. The tutees exhibit curiosity and eagerness to learn.

“They start to ask real questions...questions that don’t always have easy answers, and they are constantly looking for role models,” claimed Liz Lindley ’15.

The rewards of working as academic coaches at Project Coach include seeing the development of the students and creating a dynamic where tutors and tutees learn from each other. The concepts and materials that the tutors cover range from time management skills to structuring essays. In comparison to the 53 percent high school graduation rate in the Springfield area, the tutees at Project Coach have accomplished an impressive 100 percent graduation rate. An important part of Project Coach is empowering inner city teens to coach, teach and mentor younger kids. By tutoring and mentoring the students, the academic coaches develop their own interpersonal skills and become more confident in their advising abilities. Project Coach’s mission extends beyond serving their students at the high school level by maintaining these everlasting relationships as they move onward in life.

Personally, I am passionate about helping underprivileged children and giving back to the community. I am able to do so with Project Coach by tutoring students who need additional support out of school. Witnessing the growth that the Project Coach kids have made over the past four years has been truly remarkable, and I am confident that they will continue to succeed in college and beyond. I am also certain I have learned more from these children than they have learned from me.