Oxford volunteer Leaps into helping children

Elizabeth Wilks Parry
The Oxford Eagle

Morgan Marso has classes, homework, sorority meetings, and a social life, but she still finds tome to volunteer with a local program called Leap Frog.

Leap Frog is a mentor and tutor program for first-, second- and third-graders in the Oxford and Lafayette County area. Most kids enrolled come from single-parent homes or may have experienced a difficult home life. At Leap Frog, kids receive extra help with their homework and improve their reading skills.

“Most of the kids aren’t reading at grade level,” Marso said. “But by the time they leave, they will be reading at the level they should be.”

At Leap Frog, kids meet with mentors twice a week for an hour. One tutor is paired with the same kid for an entire semester, so they get a chance to bond.

“For the full hour we are there, we are doing homework and reading,” Marso said. “That hour is dedicated to helping the student with their schoolwork and helping them understand the concepts they are learning in class.”

Although Marso is only assigned to be a tutor, the Leap Frog program also offers enrichment where the kids can play for another hour after their tutoring session until their parents come to pick them up.

Throughout her time in high school, Marso volunteered at a preschool where kids had challenges and special needs.

“I always loved working with kids, so I knew I wanted to (continue volunteering) with kids in college,” Marso said. “I chose to work with Leap Frog because I thought they have a great goal and objective. They help young children (better themselves) in their school work, but they also add in a mentor part as well. These kids don’t have a great family background, so having the same tutor twice a week shows these kids that they have someone to rely on.”

Marso works with a little girl named Mariah every week. Mariah is from the Oxford area and meets Marso at Oxford University United Methodist Church off the Square every Monday and Wednesday afternoon. The two have formed a special bond over the past few months, as Marso has helped Mariah improve her study skills and reading.

“It is really important to show up every day for these kids and not flake on them,” Marso said. “Because they already get enough of that at home.”

Marso’s roommate Kristen Collins admires Marso for her dedication to children.

“She bought her girl Skittles because her loves (them), and I think it’s so sweet that she pays attention to what (she) likes and gave her a little happy,” she said, :Seeing her get to teach younger kids makes me wish I could do something like that.”

When the kids first arrive, they receive snacks before jumping into their homework. Students then present a folder to their tutor filled with worksheets and spelling words. Tutors go through the folder with their student, make sure every subject is attended, and that the child fully understands the concepts they are learning in school.

It is important that the tutor remains firm with their student and dedicates the full hour to education experiences. If kids finish their homework early, the program provides many books and flash cards to help promote learning throughout the entire hour.

“The most difficult part about Leap Frog is trying to come up with ways to help these kids understand concepts that come so easily to us now,” Marso said. “Like when I was teaching my little girl addition, I had to stop and think a minute on how to explain in a way a third-grader would understand. Addition is just second nature to (me) now, but to them it is a totally foreign subject.”

Although it may be difficult to backtrack and teach these kids certain concepts, Marso said it’s rewarding when you help your student achieve that “ah-ha” moment.

“The most fun part is watching her grow and learn,” Marso said. “It is really exciting when she starts to understand her homework or when she gets a perfect score on her spelling and vocab tests.”

Marso has formed an amazing bond with Mariah through the Leap Frog program.

“The other day, she got a drawing from her girl and put it on the fridge at our apartment,” Collins said. “That shows me that her girl loves her.”

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