Peoplestown Project Put on Hold for the Spring

Senior Sydney Muse (second from left) takes a break with students at the community center in Peoplestown. Photo: Lee Wilson

Just around this time last year, Pace announced a partnership with the Rick McDevitt Youth Center to create Peoplestown Academy. Upper school students and faculty members traveled to the Peoplestown community near the former Turner Field to help tutor kids in grades 5-12. But this spring, Pace volunteers will not be tutoring there due to the unavailability of teachers and coordination difficulties.

“It was a combination of things,” said Director of Community Engagement Zeena Lattouf. “There was miscommunication between us and the leadership at Peoplestown.” The leadership at Peoplestown told families that Peoplestown Academy would be an enrichment program, though according to Ms. Lattouf, their conversations with Pace faculty reflected plans for for a tutoring based program. “It was harder last semester to get the Peoplestown kids motivated,” said Ms. Lattouf. “We realized that they might have been expecting something other than homework help, which explains some of our challenges. So, we decided to take this semester to plan with leadership at Peoplestown about how to best serve the community within the constraints of the school day.”

“I’m really going to miss being with the kids,” said senior community engagement leader Sydney Muse. “It was great hanging out with them and watching their progress.” In the fall semester, student and faculty volunteers shuttled down to the Peoplestown community on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Elementary school and middle school students worked in one room while the high school students were in another. The faculty volunteers helped the high school students with their homework while the elementary and middle school students learned by playing educational games with Pace student volunteers.

Biology teacher Dr. Kaylan Haizlip volunteered with Peoplestown Academy on Tuesdays last semester, and she worked with high school kids and helped with their biology assignments. “I loved working with those kids,” said Dr. Haizlip. “But it was really difficult to coordinate schedules, especially since the kids don’t go to our school so we don’t know their schedules.”

As for the future, Ms. Lattouf and Mr. Williams are working together to make a plan that benefits the Peoplestown students while also working with their own scheduling constraints. “Our goal is to just create an excitement for learning, whether it’s through science experiments or films or excursions,” said Ms. Lattouf.

Ms. Lattouf is open to any feedback or suggestions from students on how to revamp the Peoplestown Academy program.