Keiana West '18 on Tutoring at the SRC

MO: Could you tell us a little bit about the SRC and how you got involved with the tutoring program?

KW: The Student Resource Center (SRC) is an alternative education facility in Pittsfield. It is a place for high school and middle school kids that have behavioral, emotional, psychological, family-related, or academic conflicts that inhibit them from participating or succeeding in the traditional school environment. There are 4 different programs, but the kids we tutor are high schools students that attend the facility for the entire day because they have been transferred there from one of the public high schools. I have known about the existence of the Student Resource Center and its predecessor, the Juvenile Resource Center, for many years because I live in Pittsfield and attended Taconic High School, which is one of the schools from which students are transferred. I recently got involved with the SRC because I interviewed the director, David Kubicki, to get some information on alternative education programs for a psychological research proposal. Shortly afterward, Converging Worlds reached out via Facebook regarding the new tutoring program, and I immediately joined.  

MO: What is the ultimate goal of the tutoring program and in what ways has the program been effective?
KW: The ultimate goal of the tutoring program is not only to help the kids academically, but also to serve as mentors and a support system for the students. We might eventually work on a service learning project with them. We would like to benefit the students in whatever way possible, but also to advocate for better transitions back to normal high schools so that the students can graduate,  accomplish their goals, and reach their full potentials.
MO: Do you feel that the SRC has been a useful resource for the youth that attend? If so, in what ways?
KW:  I don't have enough information to answer this question fully, as I have not followed anyone's experience at the SRC and beyond or done/heard of any longitudinal studies in this facility. I believe that an alternative environment can benefit kids that have trouble learning at traditional schools, but that the alternative programs must actively work to address the problems that brought the kids to the school in order that they can make the transition back to a normal high school path. This involves not only addressing the students' conflicts, but also the problems imbedded in the school system that contribute to the marginalization and isolation of these students. I think that the SRC should provide better mental health services and other services that help the kids address their conflicts head-on. I also believe that the SRC could benefit from more teachers and staff on site, to provide the kids with the wholesome, educational experience that they deserve.
MO:What are some issues that have arisen around the SRC?
KW: The old location of the SRC presented a major issue, as the facility was housed in a former prison. Community organizations such as the local chapter of the NAACP advocated to have the facility moved to its current location. However, many believe that the current building is too small for the program, and new locations are being considered. Racial disparities have also been an issue in the SRC. Black and Latinx students are more likely to be suspended and otherwise disciplined,  and this is reflected in the population of students that attend the SRC each year. David estimated that over 60%  of the students that were in any of the programs at the facility this year were non-white, while Pittsfield itself is 88% white. 
MO: What suggestions do you have for improving the situation?
KW: In my opinion, a major problem with the SRC is that many of the kids who attend the facility full time have trouble re-entering traditional schools, or never re-enter at all. Namely, the SRC is a manifestation of the school-to-prison pipeline, as the SRC is run by the Sheriff's Office alongside Pittsfield Public Schools.  Many of the students end up in the court system, as their behavior is criminalized often more so than it would be in traditional school environments. This is a nationwide phenomenon that is not specific to the SRC, but that is certainly reflected in this local facility. The SRC should have a bigger focus on addressing the issues that bring the students there and on finding a way to help them succeed in their respective high schools. Better mental health services and support systems could help this transition, and a focus on providing an education that is more comparable to that offered at the two public schools could make transitions easier for the students. More funds, more space, more staff, more organization, and more integration with the high schools is needed to benefit the students at the SRC.
MO: Lastly, when does tutoring occur and how can students get involved?
KW:Tutoring occurs on Fridays. We leave campus at 9:30am and arrive back around 11:45am. You can get involved by contacting Anna Pomper (avp1), co-president of Converging Worlds. Even if this time doesn't fit your schedule, the SRC is very flexible and we would love to get people involved however possible, if they are truly eager and dedicated to helping the students!