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'Off The Street Club' Helps West Side Students Find Tutors, After-School Activities During Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's hard enough getting the kids to focus on their e-learning; finding a tutor or after-school activity in a pandemic is a whole other challenge.

But as CBS 2's Tim McNicholas reports, one group on the West Side is giving students a way to nail down their studies after school.

It's not easy to get a kid to close out a computer game, but 11-year-old Anthony Williams will do it to talk about Off The Street Club.

"There's no gun violence. It keep us off the street, and it keep us safe," Anthony said.

It's a place to study, shoot hoops, or relax with some computer games after school.

"When I think about the Off The Street Club, I think about safety and hope," Anthony said.

One goal is to give kids a safe space in West Garfield Park, a neighborhood where just last week a teenager was shot at a bus stop.

Police said two people in cars started shooting at each other, and a bullet hit the boy in the hand.

"Each and every day they are battling against gangs, drugs, and street violence in their daily lives; just trying to stay alive," said Off The Street Club executive director Arnett Morris.

Morris says the program is especially important now; with kids e-learning at home, many are struggling to focus.

"Our families and parents are challenged, like all other American families are challenged, trying to become teachers of their own students," he said.

Off The Street Club partnered with a tutoring service called StudyPoint. Now, three days a week, the kids join one-on-one virtual tutoring sessions to make sure they're fully grasping their schoolwork.

"There's been such a huge learning loss," said John Fahey, the education program director for StudyPoint. "You know, a lot of people in the education industry call it the COVID slide; and so it's even more important for kids to be able to do this."

"If you're not good at math, you have a tutor that will sit, and talk to you, and help you with hard problems, and break them down," said 15-year-old Ayonna Pitchford.

From temperature checks to allowing fewer kids in the building, Morris said the team's made other major changes during the pandemic.

But when you've been around since 1900, change is inevitable.

"There's a quote by Frederick Douglass: 'It's easier to build strong children than to fix broken men,'" Morris said.

Arnett said a membership for Off The Street Club is $10 for the school year, with financial assistance available.

The tutoring is available three days a week, but there are after school activities offered Monday to Friday.

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