Auto company pairs older, younger Detroit students

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DETROIT (AP) — Dozens of successful Detroit high school students are earning money tutoring younger children after school, under a $1.5 million program dreamed up by a corporate executive who went through the city's public school system and whose company is footing the bill.

So far, 125 high school students from East English Village Preparatory Academy have received training and are working with students at nearby Clark Preparatory Academy. Southfield-based auto supplier Lear Corp. is funding the three-year effort.

Lear chief executive Matt Simoncini, who attended Clark, said he wanted to find a way to help Detroit's public school system, and came up with the idea after noticing how well his 14-year-old daughter was responding to the tutoring she got from high school honor roll students.

He said pitched the idea to Roy Roberts, the school system's emergency financial manager, who embraced it. The program was unveiled last June and is well under way today.

Four days a week, the high school students take a school bus to Clark four days a week, receiving $8 an hour for their work.

"The high school kids effectively have what is a part-time job and motivation to be a good student because they have to maintain good grades and attendance," he told the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/V3AkTJ ). "Grade school kids get role models and one-on-one help."

Seventh grader Keon Thomas had a C-minus in math last year but got a 100 percent on a math test last week. He said he thinks he's one step closer to his goal of becoming a builder or mechanic due, in part, to the high school tutors who help him twice a week.

"I'm always building stuff," Keon said, grinning widely. "Requires a lot of math."

According to assistant principal Murleen Coakley, the tutoring already has made a difference.

During a recent visit to a computer lab, Coakley pointed to a boy she said has "found his spark" in math after getting one-on-one tutoring.

"We're able to see if there's actual growth," she said.

Husani Webb, 16, a junior, congratulated the students he tutors for correctly working out a problem that involved subtracting negative numbers.

"You did pretty good today, Louis," he said, to 12-year-old Louis McMillan, a seventh-grader. "I'm proud of you."

The tutoring program aims to raise student achievement and support successful transitions to high school for Clark students who have low math scores. In 2011, 3 percent of Clark's sixth-graders scored proficient in math on the statewide MEAP test, 4 percent of seventh-graders scored proficient and no eighth-graders scored proficient.

"When I was in middle school, I would've liked for somebody older from another school to have helped me," said Brandy Robertson, an 18-year-old tutor.

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