A Boost of Confidence: AIM™ Tutoring Taking Students to the Next Level

Northmen Den Youth Services’ AIM™ tutoring program serving students in Petoskey, MI, and surrounding school districts is growing rapidly.

Middle and high school years come with all sorts of pressures, and academic performance can hinge on a lot of variables. Add to this the fact that 1 in 3 kids in Emmet County struggle in poverty – a statistic that climbs in rural areas – and it can be expected that kids will need extra assistance.

Enter: the AIM™ Tutoring program, Northmen Den Youth Services free after school program for 1v1 attention with a professional tutor. The AIM™ program launched in fall 2021, and to date hosts 24 weekly tutoring sessions with 12 students, with 24 more students on a wait list.

“A lot of the students have a tough time at home, and don’t really get the attention they need,” said Adele, a tutor with Northmen Den’s AIM™ tutoring program. “Here you sit 1v1 and give them the attention they need for an hour. They may feel like, ‘nobody likes me, my friends are the bad kids at school.’ I don’t have any preconceived notions about the kids, I really need to learn about them myself. Let’s just find out where you are and this is what you need to work on.”

So far, all tutors agree that a major benefit so far of the program for students has been increased confidence.

It seems like a lot of it is just dealing with their confidence more than it is just dealing with the material,” Robert said. “They are applying themselves in an environment where it is not time sensitive. It’s just to work with them, when they’re getting stuff wrong, when they’re missing details – and that’s a lot of what it is. To say, ‘slow down, let’s look at it again,’ rather than ‘I need to hurry up to the next question, because I need to get done here.’

Joyce Riordan is the AIM™ program coordinator who is in charge of hiring and training tutors, and matching tutors with students. She has a background in speech pathology alongside a passion for helping children – which all comes into play in this role.

All students receive a free Jimmy John’s sandwich of their choice, so as not to send any student home hungry.

We also know that kids come to our program (hungry) after school all day,” Joyce said. “This also creates an atmosphere of caring and loving, nothing does that better than food.”

There are seven components important to our AIM™ tutoring program. 

  1. Professional, energetic tutors: Students have low energy, they are coming in to get help — and that is hard. These tutors have the passion and energy to lift each person up and the knowledge to take them where they need to go academically.
  2. Face-to-face: These are in-person interactions with a very dedicated individual, not distracted but rather focused 1-on-1 with the student.
  3. Safe environment: The tutors are kind and patient, and non-judgemental. Students can feel safe in a space where they are free of common peer pressures. The food pantry offers a second level to this loving environment.
  4. Team approach: The tutors work with the teachers and parents and students – it’s a full circle effort to achieve the change the student needs.
  5. Ongoing program development: We are listening to parents, teachers and students about what they need and developing programs that match those needs. An example is a recent launch of a group study skills session based on a noticeable gap by teachers and kids.
  6. Evaluation: We’re developing key measurement tools to understand the impact of our program, and will be working with students and teachers to ensure we are creating meaningful outcomes. 
  7. Dosage: How much tutoring does a student need? If they need help in more than one subject, can we provide it? We evaluate the intensity of the services and the needs to get the dosage right for each student.

The tutors echo the uniqueness and comprehensiveness of the program.

“I’ve worked with a number of tutoring programs even in college, this is by far the best one,” said tutor Stasha. “They meet all the different layers that a child needs to be successful and that is absolutely cool. The kids get snacks, they get a meal to take home, they have school supplies. They get everything you possibly need, and what they don’t have they will find.

While the AIM™ tutoring program just started in October 2021l, the team is working diligently to implement a survey system that measures impact and ensures the best results for students. Yet we’ve already heard from students and parents enjoying the help, such as one 6th grader getting help with math, who excitedly said, “Guess What – I am getting As!”

A note on the AIM program from our founder, Kathy Petersen: 

“The idea for AIM™ tutoring evolved from our Northmen Den Youth Pantries volunteers realizing even a short time with students visiting our youth pantries was an incredible way to encourage them to want to achieve more for themselves rather than being satisfied with their life in the present. Joyce, our tutors, and AIM™ volunteers have done an incredible job developing AIM™ to follow its name – Academically Instructional Mentoring. 

But, unfortunately, classroom teachers with 25 to 30 students don’t have the time to give individual help to those students who need confidence-building and instruction.”


To keep this excellent program sustainable, Northmen Den Youth Services needs donations to support the work. We pay our tutors in order to have professionals with qualified experiences. All youth struggling with English, math or science are vulnerable to depression and loss of self-confidence, when they see constantly failing grades in front of their eyes. 

It’s pretty defeating to any person, especially when you are young. To keep AIM free for all students, we need parents and our community to donate to our program. Visit www.northmendens.org/donations or write a check to Northmen Den Youth Services, in the memo line add AIM™ tutoring and mail to: Northmen Den Youth Services, PO Box 2085 Petoskey, MI 49770.

Anyone interested in tutoring or in need of tutoring services can reach out to info@northmendens.org. We are here for you.

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