Courtney Covert’s first phone call was a tough one: 29 minutes working through three long-division problems with a fifth grade student whose first language is Spanish; but the junior from Cumming, Ga. said she learned just as much as she taught.
“She taught me a memory trick to remember the order of long division. She remembered ‘dad, mother, sister, brother, rose’ from class, and I helped her understand it meant ‘divide, multiply, subtract, bring down, remainder’ and how to apply it,” Covert said. “She felt accomplished in the end, and it made me so proud because it is like a Good Samaritan gesture since we don’t use names.”
Dozens of calls just like Covert’s ring the third floor of the Lila D. Bunch Library on weeknights. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade call the Homework Hotline at Belmont at (615) 298-6636 between 4 and 8 p.m. for free tutoring on any academic subject.
A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Wednesday, marking the one-month anniversary of the satellite hotline, which is funded by the Frist Foundation and Joe C. Davis Foundation. Mayor Karl Dean, State Rep. Gary Odom, Joe C. Davis Foundation Trustee Bill DeLoache, Frist Foundation President Pete Bird and Metro Nashville Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr cut the blue ribbon alongside Belmont Provost Thomas Burns.
The hotline is averaging 85 calls a week. Three in every four calls are about middle-school math, and one out of three calls is from parents or grandparents, said Homework Hotline at Belmont Director Sammy Swor.
“It is very unique for a university to be involved in this. There are only three partnerships like this in the country,” Swor said. “I see the students getting more and more involved because it is already very popular with Metro and Belmont students, and I am worried that our four phone lines may not be enough.”
Although the Belmont’s hotline is intended to serve students in Middle Tennessee area codes, calls have come from New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana and California.
Among the 30 Belmont students helping grade-school students understand linear equations, phases of the moon and sentence structure are work-study students, Reformed University Fellowship volunteers, education majors working toward their practicum and other students seeking community service convocation credit.
“I choose to work the Homework Hotline because I tutored in high school,” said Angela Brothers, a Belmont freshman from Hendersonville, Tenn. “It helps the kids, and you get fulfillment out of sharing your knowledge.”
After taking fifth grade language arts and math tests and going through child abuse prevention training, Belmont students work in two-hour shifts manning four phone lines. Calls in foreign languages or more difficult than students’ scope are funneled to the main Homework Hotline, which has operated in West Nashville since 1990.
“We are thrilled to have this partnership with Belmont,” said Homework Hotline Director Wendy Kurland. “We have many more requests than tutors. This will make a huge difference for struggling students who want and need free tutoring.”