- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 3, 2006

A group of students from Wilkinson Elementary School in Southeast and their mentors put aside homework assignments yesterday for a trip to the Verizon Center to see the George Mason University men’s basketball team play Bucknell University in the BB&T; Classic.

“This is very different from what you think of a law firm,” said Edward Polk, 39, a lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP of Georgetown who has been in the firm’s tutoring program since its initiation nine years ago.

“Tutors really get to know the students,” he said. “I get to know them as they get to know me. We sort of adopt them.”

Wilkinson teachers and administrators select the students for tutoring and this year sent 25 third-graders to the program. More than 50 percent of the tutored students will complete their school year on the honor roll, school records show.

The students go to the firm’s offices for one hour every Wednesday to improve their homework and learning skills, including spelling and reading comprehension.

Last year, a student asked Mr. Polk what a lawyer did.

Mr. Polk, a patent litigator, explained the job, then arranged a courtroom scene in which he played the judge.

“We have an opportunity to learn, too,” said Gary Moore, a facilities manager for Foley & Lardner, “and they get an opportunity to learn outside of school.”

Mr. Moore, 41, has helped disadvantaged children in Southeast through Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

John Johnson, 8, said the tutoring program “teaches me to talk more proper.”

He said he was especially interested in the outing yesterday because he plays on a basketball team and became a Patriots fan last year during the team’s magical run through the NCAA Tournament. “They’re a good team,” he said.

Issac Jackson, 8, said he was cheering for Bucknell “because they’re winning.” The Bison won 60-57.

Foley & Lardner also helped build a playground at Wilkinson, helped expand the school library, sponsored trips to cultural events and historical sites and adopted families during the Christmas season.

Wilkinson was known as “the school without walls,” which initially was thought to help all elementary students. Walls were built last year, thanks to a $12,000 contribution from Foley & Lardner, because they now are thought to help classes concentrate.

“It’s the culture of a law firm, being a part of the community,” Mr. Polk said. “This way we are able to give back to the community.”

Foley & Lardner bought the tickets to the game yesterday. The proceeds from the tournament support the Children’s Charities Foundation, which funds nonprofit organizations that support disadvantaged and at-risk children.

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