Parkway students participate in Ferguson Youth Training

Parkway students tutor local children at the Ferguson Public Library.

Josh Yang

Parkway students tutor local children at the Ferguson Public Library.

Parkway Central High junior Josh Yang started Ferguson Youth Training as a way to bring students together for academic success. Ferguson Youth Training (FYT) is an afterschool tutoring program at the Ferguson Public Library three days a week where students from Parkway high schools and Marquette High School help elementary and middle school students in the area with their studies. West High senior and Beta Chi Pi president Sarah Shin has been regularly volunteering on Wednesdays.

“At first, I was going to just let Beta Chi Pi know that this project was going on, but as I started emailing Josh Yang, he said they really needed tutors, so I decided to try it once,” Shin said. “Once I went, I realized that these kids, though sometimes crazy, want to learn, and just need someone who will sit with them for an hour or whatever and help them with homework or reading. And I’ve gotten to know some of these kids well, and that’s why I keep going back.”

Yang primarily created the program to help kids in areas of St. Louis that reputably have lower rates of academic success.

“I just thought it would be a good thing to do,” Yang said. “I mean, that area is better off than some other STL areas, but still, they could use a little more help than what’s available.”

Originally, Yang was planning on sending tutors to other parts of St. Louis.

“I was going to start tutoring in the area East/North of University City, because I knew that area needed a lot of help and would be more feasible than say, East St. Louis. However, that area is slightly dangerous so I was worried about sending tutors from rich suburban backgrounds there because a few would probably get scared,” Yang said. “So then the Ferguson idea kind of popped up in the news so I was like, ‘Hey, why not start there?’ because even though Ferguson is a lot better than the areas I just mentioned [North/East St. Louis], they still need help.”

After attending more regularly, Shin has seen dramatic improvement in some kids.

“I know we’re helping these kids,” Shin said. “I’ve been helping this eighth grade girl with her math, and she brought her grade up from an F to a B. It’s not that I’m an amazing teacher or anything, but I think it’s just having the chance to have someone walk through problems and answer questions one-on-one that really boosted her confidence and helped her improve.”

Not only are the kids improving, but their parents are noticing.

“FYT has really helped mothers and families who are desperate to make their kids flourish in a less successful area.” Yang said. “There was one mother who was really wanting to help her kid excel in math, but the teachers just recommended that he take pills for focus problems. When he came here, I found out that he could not add, yet his class was already on division. His mother was thankful because she couldn’t afford a tutor, or the pills, really, and his teachers didn’t really help him.”

Yang wants to expand his tutoring program.

“I wish we had a surplus of tutors. That would give us options,” Yang said. “Then we could choose either to extend the number of days we tutor, having a stronger impact, or we could start at another library, such as the one on Natural Bridge or by Cates.”

In the meantime, though, FYT keep making a difference, for both the kids and the volunteers.

“The best part about FYT is walking in and seeing smiling faces who are just as excited to see us as we are them. It’s a lot more personal because we know the kids and the kids know us,” Shin said. “As a tutor, that lightbulb moment sound of ‘Oooohhh’ is music to my ears. As a friend, just hanging out with these kids and hearing their stories and jokes makes me smile.”