January is National Mentoring Month, and our United Way Volunteer Center is sharing mentor stories all month long. This story originally appeared in the January 2015 edition of Charlottesville Family magazine.
For Tiaranesha “Tiara” Jackson, a fourth year University of Virginia pre-med student from Chicago, coming to City of Promise’s computer lab twice a week to tutor 5th – 12th grade students feels very familiar. “It really reminds me of home,” Jackson says. “The kids remind me of me at their age.” Jackson benefitted from a similar after school program, which she credits with helping her become a Gates Millenium, Scholar.
Jackson helps the kids review their homework, reads to other kids or plays board games with them. Because her background is similar to that of the students, Jackson knows what it takes to help them get on the path to college and a career. She is a positive role model, mentor and friend, and a consistent presence in the computer center. “Tiara proves that hard work pays off, “ says Latara Salisbury, who runs the City of Promise computer lab. “She embodies the character, work ethic and drive to succeed that we strive to instill in the City of Promise youth.”
Jackson, who is also a Big Brother, Big Sister mentor, says she simply enjoys being around the kids. “This happened for me when I was younger and it was a huge benefit. I want to do that for another child. These kids are a joy to be around – I love the personality of this place.”
Are you interested in becoming a mentor or tutor? We invite you to come to our annual Mentor and Tutor Volunteer Fair on Friday, January 30 from 11:00 – 2:00 at the Omni Hotel, downtown Charlottesville. Our friends at Raising Canes are providing their delicious chicken fingers for attendees.
To learn more about the local organizations attending the fair, who would love to help you become a mentor or tutor, visit CvilleVolunteer.org
We hope to see you on January 30!
Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!
Posted by: Kim Connolly
January is National Mentoring Month, and our United Way Volunteer Center is sharing mentor stories all month long. We are hosting our annual Mentor and Tutor Volunteer Fair on Friday, January 30 from 11:00 – 2:00. You can meet 14 location organizations that need volunteers to be mentors and tutors. To learn more about the local organizations attending the fair, who would love to help you become a mentor or tutor, visit CvilleVolunteer.org.
Meet Tutor Louise Proffitt & Her Student Santos
Like many LVCA tutors, becoming a tutor was on Louise Proffitt’s radar for a long time. Proffitt spent most of her career as a special education instructor, retiring from Charlottesville High School in 2007, and it was during her time in the public schools that the challenges of English language learners first grabbed her attention.
“I always had my eye on the ESL population at the high school because there was always a lot of cross-over. They had trouble passing SOLs (Standards of Learning), and so did [my students],” she explained. After retirement, she worked part-time as a tutor for special needs and ESL students working on their English SOLs, which led her to volunteering with the Adult Learning Center in one of their ESL classrooms. At the time, she was traveling back and forth to take care of her ailing mother in Delaware. “I was afraid to take on any major commitments and it was easy to go in once or twice a week to help the instructor,” Proffitt explained. After her mother passed away, she felt ready to get more involved and signed up for Literacy Volunteers New Tutor Training in the fall of 2012. Shortly thereafter she was matched with Santos, a young man from Mexico with whom she still works.
In some ways, Literacy Volunteers was on Santos’s radar for a long time as well. When he first moved to the United States in 2001, he thought he would only be here for a few years and wasn’t committed to learning English. However, when his eldest son, now age 10, entered school, he began to realize the importance of being able to communicate with his teachers. Soon, his four-year-old daughter will also be entering school, doubling the importance for him.
“I know he’s going to need some help with the homework and it’s not going to be in Spanish. So that’s the first thing that pushed me to start looking for places to go learn English,” Santos explained. He was drawn to Literacy Volunteers program because of the one-on-one format and the ability to focus on his main goals, which are to improve his reading and writing. Now, he and his son are at similar reading levels and practice reading and writing together in the evenings.
“Now [my son] can tell me a little bit about the homework and I can get it very fast and I can help him,” said Santos. Santos’s improved English is also helping him with his business aspirations. Recently, he began his own landscaping company and is growing it partly through Toan Nyugen’s C’ville Central, a benefit corporation dedicated to vitalizing the local economy by supporting small, women, and minority-owned (SWaM) businesses in the Charlottesville region.
Proffitt is impressed with Santos’s ambition. “He’s just incredible. He wants so badly to improve. He wants to get his GED, go into a landscaping class, and become a certified landscaper. He goes from one step to another, without any fear,” she said.
One of Proffitt’s early concerns with tutoring was managing the difficult and contradictory creature that is the English language. “English is a real mess,” she said. “It has more idioms and expressions and breaking of rules than there are rules. It’s crazy.” However, she finds Understanding and Using English Grammar Workbook by Betty Schrampfer Azar and Stacy A. Hagen to be a great help. She also makes sure to set aside time in her sessions with Santos to work on his goals of improving his writing. Each session begins with them reading together, and follows with some writing time for him, and Proffitt draws on Santos’s writing to work on spelling and vocabulary.
“Once you start and get excited about helping somebody, you find the way,” she said. “There are so many resources here and Deanne and Maureen are wonderful. The person on the other side is just as nervous as you are, so there isn’t any judging going on. It’s all about just helping each other.”
Santos is pleased with his progress and makes sure to make his weekly meetings with Louise a priority, even though those are hours he could be working to support his family. “You’ve got to spend time learning English. Before I was taking classes, I just wanted to work and make money. It was hard for me [to make the time]. But now I’m happy to spend that time. Because the money, you can spend in one second, and learning English you’re going to keep it forever.”
Guest post by Literacy Volunteers
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This quote from Frederick Douglas is as relevant today as it was in the mid-1800s. There are many children (and adults!) in our community who face challenges and simply need some guidance to help them reach their potential.
Kids who have mentors are more likely to stay out of trouble, get better grades, keep away from drugs and graduate high school.
Being a mentor or a tutor is easy. There are many organizations in our area that work with kids, and they are looking for volunteers. It is not hard work when you are simply sharing your passion for computers…or music…or gardening…or reading…or baseball with a child.
Perhaps working with adults is more your speed. First generation college students need someone to help them navigate the college experience. There are refugee families who can benefit from the simplest exchange of cultural knowledge to help them in their transition to a new country. And others who need help learning a new language.
Mentors say that they feel they get just as much out of the experience as the person they mentor!
It's that simple.
January is National Mentoring Month, and our United Way Volunteer Center is sharing mentor stories all month long. We are joined in our mission of encouraging more people to volunteer as mentors and tutors by wonderful local partners: NBC29, The Daily Progress, and all the Monticello Media radio stations (HitKicker 99.7, NewsTalk WCHV 107.5, Hot 101.9, Generations 102.3 and Sports Radio 1400 AM), plus the community-minded Omni Hotel is hosting our Mentor and Tutor Volunteer Fair on Friday, January 30 from 11:00 – 2:00. Our friends at Raising Cane’s are providing their delicious chicken fingers for attendees.
To learn more about the local organizations attending the fair, who would love to help you become a mentor or tutor, visit CvilleVolunteer.org.
We hope to see you on January 30!
Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!
Posted by: Kim Connolly
Walter, an Albemarle County native, has worked since he was 14 years old. He had a heart attack when he was 44, and last year, after suffering a mini-stroke at work, he learned that he has a heart condition that can only be managed through medications. The prescriptions that keep him alive cost nearly $1,400 each month. Walter receives care at the Charlottesville Free Clinic, where he was referred to our United Way’s RxRelief Prescription Assistance program.
Helen Frye, our United Way Medication Assistance Caseworker, spends part of every workday at the Free Clinic to help patients access medications for long-term, chronic illnesses like Walter’s heart disease. She arranged for Walter to receive his medications for only a $3 co-pay. “I don’t know what I’d do without this program. I feel like I’m letting myself down because I can’t work. By the time I pay my rent and buy groceries, I’m not sure what I could cut out to pay for my prescriptions. I’m grateful - this program is keeping me alive.”
Walter is one of those people you automatically like the first time you meet them. When I interviewed him for this story, he told me that we had helped him once before, in the early 1970’s, when we ran a grant-funded job placement program. I learned that we gave him a placement referral for a job that he kept for more than 20 years! It was nice to learn that we had changed Walter’s life not once, but twice.
Your gift to our United Way helps keep Walter alive, and helps so many others.
Please make a gift today by clicking here.There is still time to make your year-end tax-deductible contribution!
Posted by: Kim Connolly
We all want the best for our kids.
Nick is a local father who is raising his two young daughters, ages 10 months and 3 years, on his own. He has a stable, full time job. When we met with him, he spoke easily about struggling to get his daughter’s hair in a ponytail that morning. Nick knew that the first five years of a child’s life before they enter kindergarten are the most important time of learning.
Nick went online to research the best area child care providers. He found the Virginia Star Quality Initiative’s website, which rates child care providers, and found a local center. Infant care costs a lot more than for a toddler. The cost for Nick to send his two girls to this center was just over $23,000 a year. That is not a typo. Nick may have a good job, but there was no way he could afford child care for two children on his salary.
But he knew that his girls needed to be prepared to enter kindergarten ready to learn. So he asked around and was told that our United Way provides child care scholarships for low income working parents. Based on his salary and the cost of childcare for two children, Nick and his girls qualified for our program.
Today, Nick reports that his oldest daughter wants to come to the center every day. “They are learning and socializing with the other kids. Here they have structure to their days and a lot more resources than they would at home. My daughter talks about art and books and the playground.”
As a working parent, Nick is grateful that the girls have a steady place to come to that is reliable, and he doesn’t have to worry about taking a sick day if the babysitter calls out. Having a United Way Child Care Scholarship means that his work is stable and his girls have all sorts of learning opportunities.
“They love it here.”
United Way-Thomas Jefferson Area has been providing child care scholarships to parents like Nick since 1975, helping thousands of children over the years. We also provide a grant to a local program that promotes child care quality and educates parents about the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. Because we know that our children are worth investing in.
Children who have been enrolled in high-quality childcare and preschool have higher reading and math scores, higher intelligence test scores, enhanced language skills, lower grade retention rates, lower special education rates and higher postsecondary education enrollment rates. That is a big return on your investment in a child’s life.
Our United Way has deep roots in our community. Our vision is a strong, healthy and vibrant community that helps people like Nick and his daughters rise above challenges to reach their full potential. Through your donation to our United Way, you are helping them learn, grow and live their best lives.
You can make a secure, online donation by simply clicking the GIVE button at the top of this page.
Posted by: Kim Connolly
Perhaps this cold weather has you thinking about heated seats in your car. Or maybe you are a driving enthusiast who likes the Zoom Zoom fun of driving a Mazda. You might be a fan of the solid German engineering of a Volkswagon, or the smooth luxury driving of an Audi. Of course, the chance to drive a Porche is nothing to pass up, either!
You can try them all out and benefit our United Way in this week's Flow Auto Drive for Community test drive event. For every test drive from Monday, November 10 through Saturday, November 15, Flow Auto will donate $15 to our United Way. And if driving fun and philanthropy aren't enough, with every test drive, your name will be entered to win a 12 month lease on a new vehicle. Have some fun and help us help local people to reach their potential.
Four of our board members came out last Friday to Darden Towe Park for a photo shoot to help us promote this event. We had a blast, and you can see all of the photos on our UnitedWayTJA Facebook page.
So, take a test drive for a great cause this week. You may not be in the market for a new car today, but you can do your market research early for your next car. Let us know what you drove using #DriveforUW.
Posted by: Kim Connolly
The clocks have been set back an hour, Halloween is over, and people are turning their thoughts to Thanksgiving, Christmas and the winter holidays. Pretty soon we’ll be getting phone calls from warm hearted folks who want to volunteer either as individuals or families over the holidays.
There are many needs and many opportunities to help this season, and local nonprofits are signing up volunteers right now for Thanksgiving baskets through Love INC, or to be Toy Lift volunteers on December 5. Most holiday assistance programs take place in early December, so we like it when families, businesses and individuals start planning early to volunteer. Believe it or not, if you wait until the week before Christmas, all the volunteer spots will be taken for things like serving holiday meals at the Salvation Army.
We like to make it easy for you to volunteer, so our United Way has prepared a (two-sided) flyer listing local holiday volunteer opportunities. Please download it and print it out or share this link with your friends, co-workers and family.
Share the spirit of the season!
“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.” -- Bernard Meltzer
Posted by: Kim Connolly, Vice President of Community Engagement