by Kirby Lindsay
The first hurdle has been cleared – the after-school tutoring program at B.F. Day Elementary School has funding to begin. The student sessions start on Tuesday, October 19th. The second hurdle will be orientation meetings with the volunteer tutors, scheduled for October 12th & 14th, when it will become apparent whether enough volunteers will be available to help the kids learn.
Beth Tesh serves as Volunteer Coordinator for B.F. Day, and she’s navigated this particular obstacle course many times. The program often has shortfalls, and Tesh has learned to be crafty and creative about covering them – but even she cannot invent people where none exist. “Last year we had almost 80 requests,” for kids needing after-school support, she explained, “but I don’t have the tutors.”
A Scholastic Boost
“The students we focus on are the ones that do not get any other help through the day,” Tesh clarified. After-School students don’t otherwise receive attention in the established, and budgeted programs, like Title 1, Special Education and/or English Language Learners (formerly ESL). These children “just need some extra help,” to succeed in school, Tesh allowed, as they live in single-parent or non-English speaking homes, or are homeless.
Each year students get nominated by teachers, parents, the Family Support Worker, and/or the Resource Supervisor, Dora Vasquez. Vasquez knows the kids and helps Tesh decide who would benefit the most, and be able to sit still for tutoring. The tutors help with basic reading, writing and math skills, but often serve more as mentors and cheerleaders for the kids. Tesh can usually accept 40 – 45 kids into the program, provided she has the volunteers.
A Small Sacrifice
Vasquez helps identify the needs and personalities of the students, while Tesh learns about her volunteers to best pair them. “When I have a good match,” she explained, “the grin on my face cannot be contained as I walk around the room.”
The program runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:10pm to 4:25pm, from mid-October to April, with school holidays off. “I’ll take people one day a week,” Tesh allowed. She’s willing to make many concessions, understanding the conflicts that come up in people’s schedules. “If they can’t do two days,” she explained, “I will pair them [with another volunteer to] the same student so there is consistency.”
“Best case scenario,” Tesh acceded, “we’ll have one-on-one but…” As life interferes and volunteers don’t show, or have to drop out, she often has to match volunteers with more than one student. Volunteers can also arrive for an hour of the hour and a half session. She is not picky – because this all comes down to doing what can be done for the students.
Tesh does already have some volunteers – and great ones at that. Older students, in need of service hours or just wanting to help, often form a base number of the volunteer tutors at B.F. Day. She has also had tutors who’ve helped her fill the other needs of the program, like finding funding.
For even after signing up volunteers, and processing their background checks, Tesh faces further hurdles. They have money to begin but “whether we have funding or not through March,” remains in question, she admitted. She also likes to serve healthy snacks to the kids, before expecting them to work through the afternoon, as well as providing paper, pencils and folders for their use – all of which can be donated to cut costs.
If you can help, or know of resources, contact Tesh at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206/252-6042. A few hours a week, grins and giggles, and the chance to significantly improve the success rate of a child – can you help?
©2010 Kirby Lindsay. This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws. Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.