Tutoring program for youth experiencing detention expands in Arizona

A program managed by Arizona State University’s Youth Justice Lab that helps juveniles keep up academically while they experience detention expanded in January to serve Mohave and Pinal counties.

ASU student volunteers are in their third semester of providing free, high-quality tutoring within juvenile detention facilities in Maricopa County, said Assistant Professor Adam Fine of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Fine is the tutoring program’s principal investigator. Tutors are now assisting students in Lake Havasu City and Florence, in addition to Phoenix.

In Maricopa County, the program is a cooperative effort between the university, the Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department and teachers with the Maricopa County Regional School District. An Inclusive Design for Equity and Access (IDEA) mini-grant from the Watts College contributed funding for the program. For the recent expansions, the Youth Justice Lab is partnering with the Pinal County Youth Justice Center and the Mohave County Juvenile Detention Facility.

Fine said the tutors allow students experiencing detention a better chance to resume an education that many have neglected for some time.

“Juveniles who enter detention are often far behind grade level. If we don’t get them up to speed, they fall further behind,” Fine said. “Many haven’t been in school for maybe a year or even two years. You ask, ‘What grade are you in?’ They’ll tell you the last grade they were in.”

ASU tutor Danna Almeraz Preciado said the program has given her the chance to be a part of positive change and offers numerous opportunities to provide educational encouragement and guidance.

“It has been extremely rewarding to see that coming in routinely and working one on one with the youth has created trust, and has allowed me to see progress with their studies,” Almeraz Preciado said. “I always look forward to the days I get to spend tutoring knowing that furthering their knowledge will not only help them now, but in the future as well.”

Kevin Malakowsky, education transition specialist with the Maricopa County Schools Superintendent’s Office, said the tutoring program has been “an incredible blessing” to students and teachers.

“Our students benefit from receiving more direct one-on-one support, and our tutors have been able to expand the reach of our education program,” Malakowsky said. “They have helped students towards credit recovery and obtaining their GEDs.”

Three students that ASU tutors helped in the program’s first spring 2022 semester went on to earn General Educational Development (GED) certificates, he said.

“It is a community effort to help our students be successful and we are indebted to the tutoring program for becoming a part of the community,” Malakowsky said. 

Mark J. Scarp