The U-Link Literacy and Learning Center serves as an important learning space and community within University High School.

The focus of the U-Link Center is to provide a non-threatening environment for students to seek support across all content areas. As a lab school, we strive to facilitate relationships and community between our students and teacher candidates, a key component to our success.

The 2012-2013 school year was the first year of the U-Link Center. Over the course of the entire school year we had the pleasure of partnering with 27 Illinois State teacher candidates who volunteered over 260 hours in the center working one-on-one or with small groups of students.

The U-Link Center was the site for the service-learning project by Illinois State University Honors Scholar Jen Jaroch. Jaroch was integral in helping design and plan our mentor training manual and training experience that both Illinois State teacher candidate mentors and U-High peer mentors would participate in during the 2013-2014 school year.

The excitement continued into the 2013-2014 school year. During the first quarter, Jaroch continued her project, and we have already seen an increase in the interest of Illinois State teacher candidates wanting to spend time teaching and mentoring U-High students in the U-Link Center. At the end of the first quarter, we have 31 Illinois State teacher candidate mentors, more than all of last year combined.

This project and two other service learning projects have added depth to our center. Presidential Scholar Sarah Wysock developed and led academic workshops for our students on note taking, test taking, and writing skills, and Honors Scholar Kyle DaVault collaborated with University High School teachers and developed resource pages utilizing online resources and apps to help students with their studying and learning needs.

The U-Link Center would not be as successful without the collaboration and generous volunteering of the Illinois State teacher candidates. In the U-Link Center we use the word “mentors” instead of “tutors” because we believe that our work is a developmental partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information, and perspective to foster the growth of someone else. In other words, we believe both students and teacher candidates mutually benefit from their experiences in the center.

We look forward to building additional relationships and providing a place for teacher candidates to have meaningful engagements with students as they prepare for their careers in education.