Doug Belpedio’s cell phone goes off. The pizza delivery guy is waiting downstairs at Oak Park and River Forest High School to deliver the dish to his after school Obama clinic.

Neither a class about presidential history or health, the OBAMA clinic is an after school tutoring program that began last fall. It features upperclassmen instructing freshmen who need help in reading. It was Belpedio’s idea to create the after school program, wanting to do something to help some of his students and those of his colleagues. When he pitched the idea to fellow teachers, he recalled some getting out their checkbooks to help pay for the program before he could finish his presentation. The high school is actually providing funding, said Belpedio, who’s taught at OPRF, 201 N. Scoville Ave., for 26 years.

The clinic is voluntary, with students recommended by teachers and also by some of the students in the program. Though initially geared to freshmen, sophomores have also come to Belpedio’s third-floor classroom for help in various subjects. Sophomore Rashad Williams, in fact, has come every day since joining the clinic in the fall. Williams and another student, freshman Shante Young, who also has perfect attendance at the clinic, both received a $25 iTunes gift card, one of the items donated or purchased for the students.

Williams said his grades have improved since joining the clinic. He even asked one of his buddies to come in for help.

“I like coming because it helps me do better in class,” Williams said.

Nichol Potter, a junior, said she liked being a tutor for her peers, the first time she’s ever done so.

“I usually go home after school but now I’m able to come here and help out. It feels good to do that,” she said.

The program started with about 40 freshmen. Since last fall, attendance has varied. On this particular Monday afternoon, four students are doing their homework with two seniors there as tutors. Belpedio said he wanted the kids to have fun in the program. He also talks about current events with them, including which film they thought would win during Sunday’s Academy Awards show. He also encourages the students to read whatever interests them, whether it for school work or sports and entertainment magazines.

“As long as they’re reading, that’s what’s important,” he said.

Why OBAMA? And why pizza every day?

The program’s name, OBAMA, is actually an acronym. OPRFHS Before After School Mentoring Alliance. The kids meet Monday through Thursday from around 3:15 to 4:30. The pizza is paid for by the school, though Belpedio makes sure to have diet sodas for the kids to drink. Some other donations to the program even surprised him.

He bought 25 tickets to a pre-season Bulls game in October. The tickets were $5 for upper deck seats. The Bulls ticket office donated another 25 tickets free of charge and indicated it would also donate in the future if the program requested it. Belpedio plans to keep the program going, he said. As Monday’s clinic wrapped up, the students dined on cheese and sausage pizza and diet RC.

“I ask the kids what they wanted and they said pizza,” Belpedio said. “I don’t know how they can eat it every day. But I brought in the diet sodas, that they don’t really like, but they drink it.”

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