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December 9, 2013

Volunteer Tutors Strengthen Reading Partners

As she attended classes in the California Bay Area, Naomi Shachter was struck by AmeriCorps’ ability to transform the lives of students in her high school. AmeriCorps members served as mentors, advocates, teachers, and friends. “I saw what a big difference service in the community could make,” she said.

Now Naomi is returning the favor.

As an AmeriCorps member and volunteer coordinator with the national non-profit Reading Partners, Naomi recruits, trains, and coaches volunteers at the program’s Washington, DC, location. Naomi is one of many AmeriCorps members contributing to the success of the organization’s volunteer mobilization efforts.

Rather than solely tutor students themselves, AmeriCorps members serve as outreach and site coordinators who mobilize and manage volunteers drawn from the local community. During the most recent program year, Reading Partners recruited more than 5,000 volunteers and served more than 5,000 students.

Program officials use multiple methods to recruit volunteers, including social media, online, and flier postings. But the sharpest tool in their arsenal is building strong partnerships with local schools, corporations, civic groups, and clubs.

“Partnerships allow us to bring in more and more volunteers every year, and we find that their service is really meaningful when they belong to a community,” Naomi said. “Because word of mouth is so strong, we find that our tutors are our strongest advocates.”

Deborah Addad is one such volunteer.

For four years, Deborah has tutored for an hour each week at the Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco, CA.

AmeriCorps member-supported training seminars and workshops that focus on best tutoring practices are part of what keeps Deborah coming back week after week.

“I like showing students that they’re capable of learning, that they’re smart, and that they have value and someone is interested in their opinion,” Deborah said. “They can control the information that comes to them in a way that’s useful and in a way that they can feel good about.”

Volunteering is a way for Deborah to give back a little bit of what she enjoyed during her childhood. Her teachers and parents, Deborah remembers, were the strongest advocates she had. And she knows not every child has that luxury.

“I thought, ‘Here’s something I can do’,” she said. “‘I can’t fix the whole world but I can do this.’”

Source / National Service Blog / Dana Forde

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