When Priscilla Herzberg, a May graduate of the human development program in Virginia Tech's College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, first started work under the federal work study program, she began in Virginia Tech’s award-winning dining halls. 

“Although that experience introduced me to many amazing peers, I wanted to do something that felt more meaningful,” she said. “The summer before my junior year, I came across tutoring with the Community Literacy Corps. It sounded too good to be true.”

Literacy Corps tutors work in elementary, middle, and high schools in Montgomery County, Pulaski County, and Giles County during the regular school day and in several after school programs. Tutors work 10-20 hours a week, earning money to help offset the costs related to higher education.

“The flexibility in the hours we work is something that has been especially important for me due to the rigorous nature of my engineering course curriculum and other extracurricular activities,” said Kenny Maben of Winchester, Virginia, who graduated in May with a degree in civil engineering in the College of Engineering and is now a graduate student. “However, the feeling that I am making a lasting and important impact in the lives of the students I work with is the biggest draw for me to the program.”

Herzberg got the experience she was hoping for when she applied to the program. In her apartment, she proudly displayed paintings given to her by students. “I talk about my students as if they are my kids because I fall in love with them and that is ultimately why I stayed with the Literacy Corps,” she said.

“Working with the Literacy Corps has had a special impact on my undergraduate experience by giving me an outlet to do some service in the community around Virginia Tech,” Maben said. “Getting to work with students during my day also gave me a mental break between my own classes and helped reduce my stress level as I could play with and help the students to learn and grow.”

While tutors expressed gratification in being able to serve as role models for local children, they also gained much from the students in return. “Seeing the students’ curiosity and interest in learning about the world around them was refreshing for me and helped remind me why I went to college in the first place and why getting a good education is so important,” Maben said.

The Literacy Corps formed at Virginia Tech in 1997. Over the 2013-14 academic year, 83 students served in the Literacy Corps.

“As a veteran teacher, I know exactly what my tutors mean when they tell me that they are so excited to watch the child they have been working with suddenly have that 'ah-ha' moment. It is a priceless experience,” said Gloria Hoover, coordinator of the Virginia Tech Literacy Corps in the Office of University Scholarships and Financial Aid.

The student-run program is accepting applications for tutors for the 2014-15 academic year. Interested students can also email Hoover directly.

Tomorrow, Virginia Tech News will highlight another unique work study opportunity that places students in jobs with local community service organizations.