Gainesville organization works to boost education for vulnerable children

Eric Ramos’ path to success was far from linear. He was given up for adoption at the age of 3 months after his mother returned to the Dominican Republic without him.

Another obstacle was the 34-year college career before college; he barely managed to graduate from high school with a GPA of 2.1.

Reflecting on this period of his life, he founded RamosStrong Motivational Group Inc. in September 2020 to help students gain a solid education despite the difficult circumstances of their lives. The organization offers one-to-one lessons to children from Kindergarten to Grade 12 in Alachua County. He is also offering a gift of $ 500 for school supplies for children in Alachua County, as well as Polk County.

One of his goals is to try to close the achievement gap for black students, he said.

“We found out that there was a major deficit with black students in the Alachua County area,” he said. “We have fourth graders who can barely read a book chapter. We can see the educational deficit that is occurring.

Carlonda McTier, a 35-year-old science teacher and vice president of RamosStrong, said it was difficult for the company to engage with those it intended to serve.

“We know there is a need within the community, but it’s hard to get people to take advantage of the free tutoring opportunity,” McTier said. “It’s double. We have difficulty bringing in the children some weeks, then other weeks we have difficulty bringing in the guardians. ”

The program allows 10 students to attend each week. Last year, about three to seven children attended each week.

McTier said she noticed that students often had difficulty reading and math, well behind what they should be for their grade level.

“We are seeing reading levels that are two to five years below what they should be academically,” she said. “It’s severe. We also see the same things in mathematics.

But some cases are worse than others. Often, McTier has seen eighth graders who have a first grade reading level or a fifth grade math level.

Vulnerable students, such as those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder, often face personal challenges that transcend their academic priorities, McTier said.

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“In our low income areas, people are struggling with needs beyond education,” she said. “If I have nowhere [to] lay my head down tonight, if I don’t eat tonight, if my parents abuse me … if I’m not doing well, school just isn’t my first priority.

She said the transition to online education last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic had also exacerbated problems for struggling families.

Finding a convenient tutoring location for families most in need of the service has been a hurdle for the organization, she said. Students living in the East Gainesville area often need help the most, but the organization has struggled to find a place for their tutoring within the community.

But there have also been great successes. Ramos said 14-year-old college student Serene Maddon struggled with algebra and was failing. With the help of RamosStrong Tutoring, she obtained her B grade.

UF organizations like Alpha Phi Alpha, Phi Beta Sigma and Ladies Inc. have also stepped in to help with RamosStrong tutoring.

Perizhana Wood, 21, a senior health sciences officer at UF and a member of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority Inc., said she and other members of her sorority volunteered to tutor at Ramos Strong last school year. She noticed that the main problems are math subjects.

“I have noticed that a lot of kids have the most difficulty understanding concepts and knowing what to do. Their job has been a bit more complicated than I remembered since I started school, ”she said.

Tutoring sessions with RamosStrong Motivational Group Inc. take place every Wednesday at 6 p.m. The exact location of the tutoring is kept private for security reasons.

Contact Omar at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @OAteyah.

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Omar Ateyah

Omar is a second year journalism student and press assistant for The Alligator. He enjoys taking long, thoughtful walks.

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