KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Bill and Crissy Haslam are launching a pilot program that will pair college students with schoolchildren to boost summer learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The former governor and first lady are creating the Tennessee Tutoring Corps through their foundation and in conjunction with Boys and Girls Clubs and other youth groups in the state.
"It is a reality particularly in reading and math that kids in particular slide backward in their learning over the summer, and so this is a way to combat that," Crissy Haslam told 10News.
College students will have to apply and pass a background test. They'll get a stipend to participate that will vary depending on where they work.
Proper social distancing and safety steps will be taken to ensure neither the tutors nor the students are exposed to the virus, according to the program website.
Students will be matched with younger children who have been outside the formal classroom setting since March because of a widespread shutdown to prevent spread of the highly contagious coronavirus.
Haslam told 10News last month he was deeply concerned that children will lose a lot of what they'd been learning up to March. The former Knoxville mayor said Tennessee students were looking at six months without traditional learning before school presumably starts again in August.
"I personally am afraid there is a lot less learning going on than we would like there to be and that the gap to make up next August is going to be a lot harder than we thought," he said.
Crissy Haslam has long been a supporter of reading for young minds.
"We have had more time away from school and we also have college students who -- maybe they had an internship that has fallen through or a summer study abroad program they can’t go on, all kinds of plans that are not going to work out for them now. Maybe there are some college students that have some extra time and would like to tutor our younger students through the boys and girls club," she said.
Tutoring will run June to August. The program hopes to recruit at least 1,000 qualified college tutors.
"One of the enticing things is we are going to pay college students," Bill Haslam told 10News. "Our goal is to find 1,000 college students and we would pay them $1,000 dollars to basically -- for eight weeks, two to three hours a day -- tutor students."
Specifics on payment frequency for the tutors will be communicated by the site to which the tutor is assigned.
According to an announcement, 18 Boys & Girls Clubs organizations representing nearly 90 clubs across the state will join with locally-run, youth-serving nonprofits in several counties to help facilitate the program.
Qualified tutors must be current college students. Preference will be given to those who have a 3.0 grade point average or higher, have at least completed their freshman year, and are Tennessee residents.
"One of the things we want to see is do we make real gains?" Bill Haslam said. "So we’re going to measure students when they come and when they leave -- and if they do, perhaps it becomes a pilot program that becomes an annual summer part of what we do to help kids."
If you're interested or know someone who might be interested in applying, go here.
The deadline to apply is 11:59am EST on Friday, May 29.