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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Match Corps

Published: March 21, 2013
Section: Features

Among the many postgraduate education programs available to Brandeis students is Match Corps, a highly selective, one-year urban education fellowship program in Boston. Once selected, Match Corps members, most of whom are recent graduates, act as tutors for children in either a middle school in Jamaica Plains, or a high school in Lawrence.

Match Corps is unique compared to programs like Teach For America, because it focuses only on struggling school districts in Boston, and it trains its members to be one-on-one tutors with children for many hours each day, as opposed to programs where members teach many children at once.

Thomas Coughlin ’11 and Micha Broadnax ’12 have both worked with Match Corps, and have both been hired back after their first year of work to supervise newer Match Corps members.

Coughlin initially worked at the Match High School—where the program was founded—and he is currently the assistant site director at the Business Management School in Lawrence.

“This is Match’s first year in Lawrence. We’re here as part of the state takeover, which resulted from the district’s chronic low performance. I stayed on because I believe in the program; I think it’s a means to affect change in education, and provide disadvantaged students with a greater chance for success,” Coughlin said.

Broadnax, on the other hand, works at a middle school in Jamaica Plains, tutoring many children each day in math and English. She will continue working in Jamaica Plains next school year as a Leadership Fellow for Match Corps, working with the Match Corps director to help coordinate and guide 50 new Match Corps members.

“I wanted to work with middle school-aged kids. I love the childishness about them, and that they’re not quite adults yet. I definitely would tell anyone that Match is intense. I work 60 to 65 hours a week. Match gives you the chance to serve people, but also to grow. I’ve learned a lot about how I handle myself in certain situations, and about how I can stay professional and stable when the kids are difficult,” Broadnax said.

According to Coughlin, the most rewarding part of participating in Match Corps is the difference he makes in the lives of the students with which he works. Many of the students in his high school program live below the poverty level, qualify for free or reduced lunches and come from Boston’s more violent neighborhoods.

“For many, it takes about an hour and a half to get to and from school each day. As a member of the Match Corps, you really form a connection with your students; their victories are your victories and their struggles are your struggles. These connections with your students remind you that even on the tough days, you’re making a difference in their lives,” Coughlin said.

Both Coughlin and Broadnax are challenged daily with the amount of work they must complete. As the assistant site director in Lawrence, Coughlin must observe other Match Corps Fellows in their tutorials with students; provide constant feedback to Match Corps higher-ups and the Fellows themselves in order to strengthen instructional techniques; act as a liaison between Match Corps and the school’s administration; handle student and logistical issues; and plan professional development sessions for the Match Corps tutors.

As a first year Match Corps Fellow, Broadnax must arrive to school early in the morning to prepare for tutorials. She then conducts six-hour-long tutorials, where she tutors two students at each session. Later in the day she helps prepare school lunches, and completes a daily survey about how her day went.

“Stamina is something you have to have. You make phone calls to parents about how their kids are doing. The most common problem the kids have is self-motivation. A lot of times you and the teachers want the kids to do well, but at the end of the day you have to realize when you’ve done all you can do, and know when it falls on them to do their part,” Broadnax said.

Challenges aside, Coughlin and Broadnax have seen their time at Match Corps as extremely rewarding, so much so that they both have managed to turn their initial gap years as Match Corps Fellows into full-time positions.

“Match’s mission to eliminate the achievement gap and provide high quality education to all students aligns with Brandeis’ social justice message. The Match Corps is a very challenging and rewarding year-long experience, which can serve as an excellent pathway into education. It also provides recent college grads with a meaningful and rewarding experience while they continue to search for their next step in life,” Coughlin said.

Broadnax concluded by adding that Brandeis students interested in applying to be Match Corps Fellows should be looking to help youth, but should also look forward to growing as individuals.

“One of the most important things Match Corps requires is that you have to be introspective. You’ve got to give it your all, and be in the present. I am really excited to be on this journey with other people who are open to growing, and serving others,” Broadnax said.