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On a windy autumn afternoon, Caitlin Cataldo '14 is seated in a high school cafeteria next to a New London High School student, a senior football player studying the ins and outs of pre-calculus. While the focus is on equations and graphs, Cataldo and the student are also discussing the latest sports news and football game schedule.
"We have an instant connection with the students," says Cataldo, a Connecticut College lacrosse player participating in the College's new athlete-to-athlete community tutoring program. "Even if we're from two completely different worlds, we still can bond through sports. But that's only the beginning to get the conversation going -- then we go deeper into who these students are as people. [Sports] are like a segue into finding out more about them."
Through the program, Connecticut College student-athletes travel to New London High School three days a week to tutor high school football, basketball, soccer and volleyball players in subjects from algebra to English. The program is called Camels 4 Whalers, a play on the mascots of both schools.
The College students help the high school students with specific academic subjects, and also with the time management skills and balance necessary to be a student-athlete, said Patty Shields '14. "We can connect to the students on a different level because we're both athletes. Being a student-athlete is hard -- it's hard to manage your time and to know how quickly to get [homework] done," said Shields, a lacrosse player at Connecticut College.
Cataldo agrees. "[The program] works for the New London High School students because they can relate to [us] in terms of time management. We both have a lot of games and practices."
For New London High School, the aid of the College students is vital, said Karen Fischer, a volunteer and the wife of the superintendent of New London Schools, Nicholas A. Fischer. "They're making a huge difference and our kids love getting the help," Fischer said.
The high school students say the student-athletes from the College help them understand difficult subjects and even share study skills and learning tips. Many students have received help with their college essays as well; one senior football player said his tutor gave him helpful tips on sentence structure and grammar.
Cataldo says she has already seen an improvement in the performance of the students she tutors. "[The students] are engaging and you can see the progress from week to week. We can ask 'How did that math test go?' or 'How was your English quiz?'"
- By Laura Cianciolo '16