What we do:
In the classroom, the teacher assigns individual volunteers to selected students to listen to them read, assisting them with pronunciation and comprehension. The mentor/tutors are typically retired part-time Coachella Valley residents, some with special skills who help specific students go beyond the basic.
How we do it?
Disadvantaged children often live in areas of high poverty and the schools that serve them do not have the financial resources to give individual attention to them. Their parents are for a variety of reasons unable to assist them with their studies because they, themselves, do not speak English fluently.
We, therefore, provide bus transportation to bring English speaking volunteers into those schools to work with designated children under the direction of the classroom teacher.
The volunteers are usually retirees who have the time to go into the classrooms during school hours. They generally live miles away from the children who need their help.
How do we provide the buses?
The key to bringing the volunteers to the children is making it easy for them to go into a remote or dangerous area. That is where the neediest children go to school. In our initial experience, we provide buses at a mutually agreed upon spot, usually the church parking lot, but sometimes a club house parking lot (Sun City Club House) or a shopping mall (a Costco parking lot). We contract with the participating school district. They provide school buses after dropping the children off at school. The buses go to the designated areas and pick up the volunteers. The return trip is often between 11 and 11:30am so the volunteers are back to their pick up point by noon. They buses are then needed to bring the kids home from school.
Why is the program successful?
The volunteers, who are usually retired, miss their own grandchildren and are seeking a meaningful way to use their life experience and talent. The teachers appreciate having help in the classroom for those children who need individual attention. (Some teachers do not want another adult in the classroom so they do not participate.) The children love the individual attention and thrive on it. There is no one at home who can help them with their English or prowess. Their expression of appreciation is often gleeful and reinforces the volunteers efforts to remain involved.
As volunteers relate their own experiences with the children, the horizon is broadened for future possibilites for the children. The exposure to different cultures helps reduce negative biases for children and the adults. The bus ride to and fro fosters socialization for the volunteers, sharing stories about their days experience and forming friendships and bonds with each other is a multigenerational positive experience.
How do we fund the program?
When we started the Read With Me Volunteer Program in 2004 we met with a number of people who were concerned about the quality of education in our area. We asked each of 5 people to contribute $5000 to start a donor advised fund at our local community foundation….The Desert Community Foundation. We use the funds to pay for the bus transportation and for supplies and field trips that are needed for the schools at which we volunteer. Over the past 10 years we have funded over $400,000 in bussing our volunteers to the schools that need them and in providing grants for supplies. Every year we write to our donors telling them what has been accomplished and what we plan for the next year. We always welcome contributions from anyone interested in supporting the program. Anyone interested in helping us to continue and expand our efforts is welcome to send a check to the Desert Community Foundation, East Coachella Valley Schools Fund at 75 105 Merle Drive, Palm Desert California 92211.