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September 10, 2019

Making Time to Make a Difference 

For the last year, I have had the honor of working with some amazing corporate partners who come to Reading Partners saying “We want to help!” So I go into their office, meet their employees, and we start a discussion. They express their desire to help students in the Bay Area, and I tell them we are only as strong as our community of volunteers who show up for students. The joy of being able to share our amazing work with companies and employees never gets old. Then comes the question of time commitment. It usually goes like this:

Interested Person: “What is the time commitment?”

Me: “One hour a week.” 

Interested Person: “. . .”

I see their minds going, filtering through their calendar trying to find a time each week when they don’t have meetings or deadlines or appointments to take their own kids to school. When I see the “. . .” on someone’s face or notice it happening over the phone, my job becomes that of a decoder. Are they trying to figure out a way to fit volunteering into their or their team’s schedules? Or are they trying to find a way to tell me that what they really had in mind was one hour period – not one hour per week?

The truth is that Reading Partners is in the business of impact. Each year, more than 80% of our students reach their goals and show growth in their reading ability. That is why we exist and we are so proud of each and every one of our 1400+ students in the Bay Area who are going to have more opportunities in the future because of our program. The key to our success is our model: one-on-one, weekly tutoring. 

And we get it. One hour a week for a semester is a commitment and that’s why I’ve come up with some tips to help make that commitment a little bit easier.

1. Consider your schedule and when you’re the busiest.

Believe it or not, there are probably a few times a week that already exist where you don’t typically have meetings or other commitments. For times that you’re unsure about, consider whether the commitments could be moved without much inconvenience. 

Usually the most convenient times are the first thing in the morning, towards the end of the work day, or during the lunch hour.

– Rebekah Espino-Drobner,
Community Engagement Associate 

2. Look at the school locations. Is there one near your home or work?

Another way to approach it is to look at the schools that host our program.  We have 28 reading centers in San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, and San Leandro that each have slightly different schedules. Finding a location that is convenient can make a huge difference in integrating tutoring into your schedule. 

I tutor at Jean Parker Elementary which is a block and a half away from my apartment. I love tutoring the last session of the day and being home at 5pm. It’s so close, I have no excuse to not go.

Andrea Edelman,

3. Talk with your manager, and if relevant, your team. 

Let them know that this is an ongoing opportunity that matters to you and kindly request like they respect your commitment. Everyone should treat this similarly to a regular meeting on your calendar that they should not schedule over unless absolutely necessary. This can also be a great time to invite them to shadow you for a session and see how amazing tutoring is. If the school is near your office, invite your team members to start tutoring with you. Even though you’re tutoring your own student, sharing the experience is a great team-building exercise.

One thing that helped me fit Reading Partners into my schedule was talking about it with my manager. Because he knew how important it was to me, he worked with me to protect the time on my calendar so I could always slip out on my tutoring day. Additionally, recruiting a friend from work as a fellow volunteer was really helpful as well! We held each other accountable, and we were carpool buddies.

  – Caroline Brand,
young professional tutor

20th anniversary

4. Think about your flexibility with work. 

Can you take meetings from home in order to accommodate a 9:30 session? Can you work from home in the afternoons to accommodate a 3:30 session?

I took morning meetings from home, then went into my assigned school to tutor mid-morning. By lunchtime each tutoring day, I had completed both my daily workload and done my best to make a difference in the education of a growing adolescent.

Blane Barker,
member of the amazing team at Atlassian

5. Remember the benefits.

This isn’t you taking an hour to have an extra-long lunch at your favorite sushi spot. One hour can truly empower and that is why you signed up to be a tutor to begin with.

Even on the days I’m struggling to get to my session, the children always bring me joy. I continue to learn from them, just as much as they learn from me!

– Allison Magyar,
third-year tutor

I volunteer with Reading Partners because it makes me feel good. My job tends to be very stressful and getting away for an hour to teach students reading skills really puts everything in perspective. If I’m struggling with an issue at work, helping a student to read reminds me of how far I’ve come and how my ease at reading in everyday life I take for granted.

 – Vince Passanisi,
6+ year tutor


With just one hour a week, you can change a child’s future so look at your schedule, talk to your boss, and make time to make a difference to become a Reading Partner today. 

To find out more about tutoring, email us at or give us a call at (510) 830-3032.


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