Amidst school closings and increased enrollment, Cook-Wissahickon strives to tutor kids to the top

Mindy Cohen is a fifth grade teacher at Cook-Wissahickon Elementary School in the city’s Wissahickon neighborhood. Without her, other dedicated staff members and a network of local volunteers, the school’s all-volunteer tutoring program wouldn’t be able to survive during a time when it’s needed most.

The program, created by the school’s Home and School Association, was launched this fall in response to higher enrollments and reduced resources at the building. With the recent closures of local Catholic schools and nearby Levering Elementary, the schools enrollment jumped to more than 500 students this year, increasing the need for extra attention in the classroom.

Tutors work with dozens of children each week from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

“It’s good for the kids that need that extra reading help and that’s the bottom line,” said Cohen. “We are trying to help them so that if they stay after school a couple times a week, hopefully we can get them to bring their scores up a little.”

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Children are placed in the program if they score below basic test levels. If students are in danger of failing reading, a teacher will often recommend them for the program as long as parents are willing to send them.

Cook-Wissahickon is currently working with student volunteers from St. Joseph’s University and Philadelphia University. But asking people to tutor for free poses a major challenge.

“The biggest challenge is getting the volunteers to show up,” said Cohen. “When you are in a situation where you’re asking people to give their time, a lot of times, if they aren’t making any money, they don’t want to do it.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a Cook-Wissahickon tutor, contact

Alexis Wilkinson and Joseph Van Dusen are students at Temple University. This piece was produced for the Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab in partnership with WHYY/NewsWorks. 

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