Family works to promote district’s youth tutor program
By Brandi Makuski
“It’s not that bad — until you get into trouble,” said Jordan Krush from across a conference room table at McKinley Elementary, of having attended the same school where his mother works.
Jordan’s mother, Tammy Krush, has been an attendance secretary in the Stevens Point School District for 20 years, and summer school secretary for the past 12. Tammy Krush said she and Jordan, 20, along with her 14-year-old daughter Maleah, consider the school a second home.
While Tammy Krush works in the summer school office, Jordan is an educational assistant in a class of summer school students just down the hall. In another room, Maleah works as a volunteer with 4-K students.
The two didn’t return to their elementary alma mater because their mother asked them to; they both wanted to be there.
“They could be doing something else in the summer,” Tammy Krush said of her children. “They haven’t gone to school here for several years, but they keep coming back.”
Krush said it was former McKinley principal John Blader — who has since retired from the school district — who initially suggested Jordan would be a good fit for the program. He could work as a youth volunteer, a program Blader helped build several years ago, then become a youth tutor when he entered ninth grade.
The entire family speaks highly of Blader, who, according to Tammy Krush, was the driving force behind the pride her own children feel for their former elementary school.
“John Blader wanted kids to take pride in their school, and he wanted the kids to want to give back,” Tammy said. “This is what the youth volunteers and youth tutors do — and now that’s what Jordan does as an EA.”
Now a student at DePaul University in Chicago where he studies business management and accounting, Jordan was a youth tutor while attending SPASH, and still returns every summer as a paid educational assistant.
“To have gone through the education system, then return to that same school as an employee of the district, is really bringing things full circle,” Tammy Krush said of Jordan. “He’s in college; there’s a hundred other things he could be doing, but he chose to come back here. It really makes me proud.”
Jordan Krush said he comes back each summer partly to spend time with his mom and sister, but also said the kids he works with leave upon him a very big impact.
“It really opens to your eyes to different grades and different kids, you learn not to take things for granted,” Jordan said. “But it’s not just in the schools; it’s community-wide. Whenever they see me they’ll call me ‘Mr. Krush’ and come running up to me and talk to me for like, 10 or 15 minutes.”
Jordan said he’s worked with summer school students from abusive or low-income families, and he’s always tried to be a positive role model.
“I come from a divorced home, I know how tough it can be,” he said. “Sometimes they’ll run into me, or call me, and we’ll go for a walk, go play soccer, whatever.”
Tammy Krush remarked the school district is “very limited on male roles in summer school”, and relayed the story of a young male student with a tough home life who bonded with Jordan.
“We had one young boy who was really having a bad day, he came from a bad family life, and he really connected with Jordan,” Tammy said. “Jordan would take him for a walk, he was a role model for him; he could calm right down and get engaged with the class again.”
Tammy Krush added her kids have worked with students who have shoes and clothing in poor condition, and that Jordan has even passed along to the kids some of his own clothing he no longer fits into.
A happy side effect of his work in the school, Jordan said, is the doors it has opened for him.
“It really helps your resume,” Jordan said. “It’s helped me get a job at many places; they look at the resume and they say, ‘Oh, you worked with kids?’, and they’re really impressed by that.”
Maleah Krush is in her second year of volunteering at the school, and plans to return next year as an official youth tutor, a program open to students in grades nine through 12. Maleah had previously attended summer school at McKinley for several years, but now uses her volunteer time inside the class to count as service hours for her confirmation.
“I like working with the kids,” Maleah said. “It keeps me out of the girl drama with my friends.”
“It makes me very proud, as a mom, to hear her say that,” said Tammy Krush, as her eyes teared up. “Because she could be just hanging out with friends or riding her bike somewhere. It’s very rewarding for me as a mom to know that my kids went through the educational system as this school; I see what a wonderful experience summer school has been for them personally in classes, what it’s done for them as young adults, growing up and continuing to give what they were given. I can’t say enough about the summer school program.”
Maleah said her experience with the four-year-old students has opened her to future carrier possibilities.
“I love coming back and helping put a smile on the students faces and helping them be excited about going to kindergarten in the fall,” she said.
“It’s always been in her mind to work with kids,” Jordan Krush said of his sister.
Tammy Krush said there’s a lot of misconceptions about summer school — to include lack of awareness about the youth tutor program. To counteract this, she chooses one of the school’s youth tutors each week during summer school and includes their photo and story in the school’s weekly newsletter.
“I have the kids submit a write-up of why they’re involved in the youth tutor program, and one kid, I almost cried when I read his because he wrote about wanting to come back as a social studies teacher in this district,” Tammy said. “There’s a lot of negative news when you read about the district, so it’s really something to hear about a student wanting to stay here.”
Youth tutor positions can be found on the WECAN website at https://services.education.wisc.edu/wecan under “Educational Opportunities”. Job openings for each summer are generally posted in March, Tammy Krush said.
As he focuses on his own schoolwork and his own career path begins to become clear, Jordan said he he plans to continue working in the district as long as he can.
“If I had to chose, I’d definitely do this again. It’s very eye opening,” Jordan said. “I mean, it’s only four hours a day, four days a week and we do so much stuff. I went to an alpaca farm last week — that’s a lot better than flipping burgers.”