FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 23, 2006
Contact: Mandy Rey
MUW reading literacy students contribute at HEARTS Tutoring
COLUMBUS, Miss. – Mississippi University for Women reading
literacy undergraduate and graduate students are
volunteering their time and skills to the Helping Every Age
Reach and Teach Students Tutoring Program in Columbus for
the second summer in a row.
HEARTS is a non-profit, faith-based community organization
that focuses on tutoring Columbus area students grades K-4.
The program began serving students in 2002 and has been in
its current location in East Columbus for the past two
Mary Ezell, executive director of the center, has been with
the program since it came into existence, and over the years
she has seen the program grow quite a bit. Rev. Sandra
DePriest, formerly the Vicar of the Good Shepherd Episcopal
Church, serves as the HEARTS Board president.
The program began at the Good Shepherd Episcopal Church with
only 10 students and a handful of volunteers. School
counselors and principals were notified about the program
and teachers recommended the names of students who might
benefit from the program. Word about the program spread and
now approximately 40 students from all Columbus city schools
and New Hope School District receive tutoring at the center
during the school year.
Today, as the center enters its fifth year, it is housed in
a former pediatrician’s office that has a lot more space
with multiple rooms for instruction. The center even has
room for a library, which the children can check out books
from during the school year.
The center follows a phonics curriculum that each volunteer
uses to help the children. Each child is required to
successfully complete the program during their time with the
center. The length of time varies for how long each child
uses the center. Ezell mentioned that some students have
been there going on three years. The completion of one
school year is strongly encouraged to the teachers, children
and parents involved. The children’s needs are regularly
assessed to determine their changing needs and progress.
Ezell noted that the center had about 60 volunteers during
the last school year from all parts of the community
including Columbus High School, Heritage Academy, MUW
community service students and generous community
volunteers. The center relies on community volunteers year
round with MUW students contributing special help during the
MUW graduate students began the summer by dividing the
children into groups based on learning needs. Skills and
techniques gained through courses at MUW were used to
evaluate the children’s learning capabilities and assess
their needs. During their five weeks with the program,
graduate students receive a lot of hands on experience while
earning internship credit.
Undergraduate students enrolled in Dr. Jeanne Holland’s
Early Literacy 1 class are also helping out at the center
for two weeks this summer. Holland, MUW assistant professor
of education, brought her students to the center after the
graduate students had finished making their assessments and
divided the children into appropriate groups. She and Dr.
Monica Riley, assistant professor of education, are serving
as supervisors to the students during their time at the
Currently, undergraduate students are working one on one
with the children while graduate students are working with
larger groups, one graduate student for approximately six
children. The students are also helping to prepare the
center for the fall after school program.
Donna Burlingame, clinical instructor in MUW’s Speech and
Language Pathology Department, is also helping out this
summer. Burlingame has been with the program for two years
and also serves on the HEARTS Board of Directors.
Sixteen children are enrolled in the summer program that
runs Monday through Friday for an hour and a half each
morning. The children start off with a morning snack and
juice before participating in a group devotional and
splitting off into their respective groups. Reading is the
main focus of the summer program. MUW students work with the
children on reading books as well as special reading lessons
During the school year, approximately 40 students
participate in the tutoring programs through referrals from
local teachers. Two groups of 20 students attend the center
two days each Monday through Thursday. An after school snack
is served and students participate in a devotional before
receiving help with homework projects as well as direct
instruction in the areas where they might need extra help.
The HEARTS Program operates solely off private donations
from local businesses and individuals as well as grants.
Donations of learning supplies, money for supplies and
operating costs, gently used books and the donation of time
are graciously accepted anytime of year at the center. For
more information on volunteering or to make a supply or
financial contribution, please contact Mary Ezell at
(662)327-6941 or (662) 244-8444