Bryan Phillips never envisioned himself as a college student.
“School didn’t come easily,” he said. “I never thought going on to college was an option.” So when he graduated a couple decades ago and got a job driving a gas delivery truck, he figured he was set … until he hurt his back and couldn’t drive.
Suddenly, being in the classroom was back on the radar. “I knew without an education I didn’t have many options,” the 38-year-old said. Stark State’s nearby Alliance satellite center made the decision even easier. “I’d always been interested in computers, so I took the placement test and got started,” he said.
And now he’s helping more than 200 kids with their homework.
On a recent sunny afternoon Bryan helped shepherd a roomful of rambunctious Alliance Middle School students as part of an afterschool program. A session of supervising students playing high-tech computer games was followed by a pencil-and-paper algebra interaction. “You can do this,” he told a frustrated seventh-grader as he gave her a simplified explanation of integers and some soft-spoken encouragement.
Bryan joins Mount Union students and other community members in assisting middle school students with homework, study tables and other activities during three 45-minute blocks each day after school. It’s part of his work-study program – he also helps out in the SSC satellite center computer lab in the mornings – and Julie Poyser, director of the afterschool program, is happy to have him. “We never have enough tutors,” she said.
“The best part is seeing kids ‘get it’ when I’m explaining something to them,” Bryan said. He quickly learned, he said, which kids need attention, which need firmness. When they’ve exceled in any aspect, he hands out “Aviator” coupons for school merchandise.
Bryan knows all about the importance of a little help from someone a little further ahead on the road. “At Stark State I’ve had good instructors who make it easier,” he said. “I tell the kids if I can do it, they can do it, too.”
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