OUWB program makes a difference in the community

Many college students hope to change the world, and one Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine (OUWB) program is helping them do just that.

Score for Success is an in-school outreach program that has OUWB students help teach literacy, math and health tips to students at Grissom Middle School in Sterling Heights. Taking place every other Friday, the program is designed to help students that are not from the United States. Students are mostly refugees who are not accustomed to reading and writing in English.

“There was a feasibility study done by two fourth-year medical students at OUWB,” Caroline Vokos, Score for Success executive board member, said. “These two students were doing a feasibility study to see if they could get a program like [Score for Success] up and running. They recognized that there was a population in need [of assistance] at Grissom Middle School mostly struggling with reading and writing, and helping to integrate into the middle school community.”

Grissom Middle School was chosen due to its high population of Chaldean immigrants, which the Chaldean Community Foundation, a partner on the project, brought to the attention of planners.

Score for Success sessions typically include lessons on literacy and math, small group reading sessions and lectures on healthy living. After an hour of classwork, students are taken to the gym to play kickball, basketball, soccer and other physical games. Both parts are led by OUWB students.

The program has seen massive growth in its three-year existence, growing from a homework help session to full lessons on literacy, math and health.

“We had mid-twenties students [in the program] last year, and this year it has grown to like 38, almost 40 students,” Vokos said. “[Grissom students] are actually outnumbering the medical students now.”

While adapting to English literacy can create some challenges for the middle schoolers, learning languages is not something new to them.

“These kids are on their second, third, even fourth language,” said Score for Success executive board member Yousef Abdullah. “They are really bright. Some of them can speak numerous languages because they have had to resettle in refugee camps in different countries.”

Vokos said working with the students on math showcases just how smart the middle schoolers are, and shows how much not knowing how to read and write English holds them back. 

“They are just flying through all these math problems when [its] numbers,” Vokos said. “But when they get to the reading portion, the word problems in math, that is when they struggle.”

Working with the students of Grissom has helped the OUWB students in various ways, too. For Score for Success volunteer Meghan Brown, learning how to deal with non-English speaking patients has been a notable lesson. 

“[Working with the kids] definitely makes you more compassionate to other people’s situations,” Brown said. “Making sure patients understand — especially those who speak different languages or come from different countries. They may not fully understand what you are throwing at them diagnosis-wise or something, but they might be very very bright people otherwise. Working around that is really important in medicine and in life.”

For executive board member Evan Brickner, Score for Success has helped reaffirm his goal toward pediatric work. 

“For me, [Score for Success] kind of helps reinforce the whole idea that kids are kinda like sponges and they are willing to learn and take in as much information as they can,” Brickner said. “The whole idea of being enthusiastic and eager is something that I like about working with kids in general.”

All signs look positive for Score for Success’s continued existence. The program keeps growing and new grant money keeps coming in. So long as volunteers keep signing up, Score for Success is set to succeed. 

“It seems like every class there is interest growing, and people like us have a hard time staying away,” Vokos said.