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Widener Partners with Camelot Chester and Diakon Services to Increase Literacy Among At-Risk Youth

Widener University, Camelot Education’s Chester Upland School and Diakon Lutheran Services have joined forces to institute a program that increases literacy among at-risk youth while providing real-world training for college students.

The pilot program matches students from Camelot Chester’s Transitional School, which accepts students on recommendation by Chester High School for serious disciplinary infractions, to be tutored one-on-one by a Widener University student two times per week for 45 minutes. Diakon identifies students and works with families participating in the program.

“We’re shooting to improve literacy in our students who have gotten into trouble and are taking advantage of a second chance, but we hope to see academic growth in all subjects from the students involved,” said Camelot Chester Executive Director Daniel Peticca.

The program, created by Widener Special Education Assistant Professor Mimi Staulters and Criminal Justice Professor Nancy Blank, centers upon mentors creating individualized tutoring plans for each Camelot student based upon his or her needs and interests, with the oversight of Widener faculty.

Dr. Staulters cited an example of this targeted approach.

“One student has demonstrated a strong ability to complete academic work, but is a bit hesitant in her interactions with her tutors and sometimes struggles to complete tasks in a timely manner,” said Staulters.  “The tutors agreed this youth benefits from humor and encouragement, and created a specific behavioral approach with reinforcers to facilitate motivation.”

The program, which began in late September, will run for ten weeks with the current group of students.  Both Peticca and Blank hope to grow the program in future semesters.

Widener University is a metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., serve more than 6,300 students. Widener is proud to be a tobacco-free campus. Visit the university’s website,