Erie Neighborhood House: Inspiring Students to Attend College

Recently, I started volunteering at Erie Neighborhood House, a program in Chicago that provides tutoring primarily for low-income communities. Their ‘Tutoring to Educate for Aims and Motivation’ (TEAM) program provides weekly tutoring and mentorship for 7th-12th graders, who are largely first-generation and want to go to college. Since 1998, 97% of their TEAM students have moved on to college, with TEAM providing college scholarships as well as comprehensive workshops on the financial aid application process.

I started tutoring a 9th-grade student, and I quickly realized she was having trouble becoming motivated to study. One day, the site coordinator decided to pass out notebooks as prizes for finishing the homework set. She really perked up when she heard that, and I noticed it was a great motivator to get through all her worksheets. After realizing that the students could be inspired by the right incentives, I decided to write to a local college, UChicago, asking for a donation to help students stay focused. The school ended up sending her a t-shirt, which both excited and motivated her going forward.

After seeing the success with UChicago, I decided to get other colleges on board with donations for underprivileged kids. I wrote a code in Google scripts to send automated emails to 1,600 colleges across the nation, including Swarthmore, Regent, and UC Irvine. After contacting these colleges, I began to receive dozens of packages a day, containing t-shirts, pamphlets, pens, notebooks, and even toothbrushes, totaling up to more than 3,000 items.

I worked with Erie Neighborhood House to get in contact with a classroom of motivated students. During one afternoon, my sister and I donated all the items we had collected to the students.

While I was there, I could see the students eagerly discussing the college pamphlets and learning more about potential opportunities for higher education. Later that week, Assistant Director of the foundation Maria Munoz wrote to me: “Thank you so much for coming and donating, Amy! Kids have been wearing the college shirts all this week.”

By working with Erie Neighborhood House, I came to understand how to motivate students to do their best work. Using my professional skills, I was able to automate contact with colleges and universities across the country about helping me spread the motivation to more students. I now know that I can use technology and the skills I’ve learned to make an impact on others’ lives in order to help them in a lasting, meaningful way.

If you’re interested in getting involved with Erie House, check out the volunteer opportunities listed here!

Amy Sun

Amy Sun, 23, graduated from Johns Hopkins University and is a business analyst at McKinsey and Company. She was born in Indiana, raised in Michigan, and now lives in Chicago. She is a co-founder and director of the Little Stars Foundation, a nonprofit youth organization, which provides services to local children and seniors that enrich their lives through music. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, playing the violin, and traveling.

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