After almost two decades, Healthy Cities Tutoring in San Carlos is still working to get students age 5-14 one-on-one support from community volunteers and has expanded its services.
The free volunteer-based tutoring program, that provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring for students who struggle, has seen 65 percent growth rate over the last two years. During the 2011-12 school year, there were 159 students tutored, while there are 325 expected to be tutored next school year. Additionally, there are plans for expansion to additional schools in Redwood City. Healthy Cities holds an annual volunteer recognition reception; this year it honored 233 volunteers, along with 265 students.
“We’ve really grown quite a bit,” said Executive Director Donna Becht. “Our mission has been from the beginning to help students who struggle. For volunteers, some of senior citizens view it as their favorite day of the week. Since there’s a vibrancy in the schools, it enriches their lives and benefits everyone.”
The project was founded in 1996 by a community-based steering committee. The steering committee had been meeting for several years working on developing a program to make an impact on San Carlos and improve the quality of life for its citizens. The program was administered by the city of San Carlos for its first 13 years then, in 2010, the program was transferred to the San Carlos Elementary School District. In 2011, Healthy Cities became a nonprofit and will be able to establish a long-range fundraising model and ensure sustainability, according to the group.
Healthy Cities connects volunteers to students with the greatest needs. The volunteers range in age from 14-91 and represent all walks of life. About 25 percent of the tutors are high school students, 25 percent are senior citizens and 50 percent are from the general community. According to teachers’ assessment data from the 2012-13 school year, students in the program saw a 12 percent increase in academic scores, a 15 percent improvement in playground and classroom behavior and 13 percent improvement in self-esteem.
Vanesa, an eighth-grade student who had a Healthy Cities tutor from first- to fifth-grade, thanked the organization for helping her.
“‘I don’t get it’ and ‘I cannot read’ were the words coming out of a little girls mouth, that little girl was me,” Vanesa said at last year’s recognition ceremony. “The words, ‘I don’t get it’ and ‘I can’t do it’ are no longer in my vocabulary. The words ‘I can get it’ and ‘I can do it’ are the result my Healthy Cities tutor’s support and guidance.”
At this year’s reception in May, Charles Miller spoke about the success of having a high school student, Ryan Dutton, a junior at St. Ignatius High School, as a tutor for his grandson, whom he and his wife are raising.
“On behalf of my family I want to thank all of you, and especially, this young man, Ryan,” Miller said. “Ryan came into our grandson’s life and I watched his grades go from very low to close to grade level. Ryan’s not just a tutor, he’s a big brother.”
The tutors themselves say there’s a great joy and growth in serving and helping people, Becht said.
Other changes are happening for the organization as well. This school year, the group moved its headquarters to Chestnut Street in San Carlos where the San Carlos Elementary School District used to be housed since the district moved its offices to Industrial Road. The program is currently operating in seven schools in the San Carlos and one school in the Redwood City Elementary School District.
With the school year wrapping up, Healthy Cities doesn’t stop its work. Many tutors continue helping their student throughout the summer to ensure that they can continue to develop their skills over the summer and to maintain the special relationships that have been formed. Most student-tutor pairs that continue over the summer meet in the San Carlos Public Library.
For more information, visit healthycitiestutoring.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105