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Tutors Learn As Much As Their Students

During National Mentoring Month, we are hosting guest posts about mentoring. Our final guest post this month is from Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle.

Meet LVCA Tutor Ginny Zeller and JT, her basic literacy student

After retiring from 29 years of practicing corporate law in Minneapolis, Ginny Zeller and her husband decided to retire to Charlottesville in 2011 to be closer to their daughters—one here in Charlottesville, another in Somerset, Ginny was looking for something to do. Having volunteered briefly with a literacy program in Minneapolis, she thought she’d try it again here, with Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle.

“I had a really good, strong, English program…I was exposed to strong fundamentals,” Ginny says, explaining that she went to a Catholic school and spent much of her primary and secondary education diagramming sentences and learning Latin. “This seemed like a good way to pay it forward.”

Shortly after completing training, Ginny was paired with JT, a basic literacy student who had recently retired and wanted to improve his reading skills. “I went through school and I could sight read, but I was very poor at spelling and reading. I decided I really wanted to read the Bible,” JT says, adding that neither of his parents were strong readers either. “It goes from one generation to the next generation. I tell young people to think. You got the opportunity, you got tutors, you got summer school—when I was going to school we didn’t have all that.”

JTGinnyWhile Ginny was nervous before her first session with JT—as most new tutors are—she felt quite prepared by the training and the materials Program Director Deanne Foerster provided her. “The Laubach series for adult learners provides you with structure. It’s almost like a lesson plan,” she explains.

JT has been very pleased with his progress over the last year. “Ginny pushes me…and gets me to the next step. She is really trying to understand me and I think we worked out a good bond of friendship with one another.”

The feeling of friendship is definitely mutual. “He’s just a great person, open to learning,” Ginny says of JT. They began their work together focusing on reading comprehension then moving into short writing activities. Ginny has found that doing short dictation activities provides them with a way to review material from prior weeks—for instance, by incorporating words with specific sounds they may have covered—as well as developing JT’s writing fluency. They also incorporate short sentence, paragraph, and essay assignments and review them together—a goal JT set for himself as part of his desire to have a more active role as a deacon at his church.

“I’ve been reading the Bible in church, but there are still has a lot of hard words,” JT says, “but I have been working at it. [Ginny] helps me with the words that I don’t know…and it is making me grow.” He credits Ginny’s mix of patience and high expectations with his progress, which has given him confidence to read out loud more fluently and with confidence.

Ginny and JT both feel it’s important for new tutors to see tutoring as a partnership. “Have it be collegial, ask questions, see what interests them. Have a plan that is something you are figuring out together,” says Ginny.

“You got to have patience with the [student],” JT says, adding that it’s also important to not be too lenient. “I tell Miss Ginny, don’t be too easy on me, be a little hard. I want the hardness, that’s what makes you go.”


Guest post by: Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle


To learn more about Literacy Volunteers and more than a dozen other local organizations seeking new mentors and tutors, visit the United Way Volunteer Center's website CvilleVolunteer.org

Charlottesville Scholarship Recipients Get Encouragement and Advice from Volunteers

During National Mentoring Month, we are hosting guest posts about mentoring. The following is from the Charlottesville Scholarship Program.


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For more than ten years the Charlottesville Scholarship Program has been assisting low and moderate income Charlottesville High School seniors and adults who currently live in the city and attended CHS, and employees of the City of Charlottesville and Charlottesville City Schools to pursue higher education or technical training to enhance their job skills and employment opportunities. Each year in the spring and in the fall, the program receives applications from eligible candidates. The candidates are typically students and adults who have demonstrated the qualities and skills that will likely make them successful in furthering their education.

The Scholarship Board determined a few years ago that simply awarding a scholarship was only meeting part of the needs of the students. Faced with challenges such as living away from home for the first time, being the first one in their families to attend college, having limited financial resources to meet basic needs and being overwhelmed by the demands of college or going back to school after a few years out of the educational system, almost half of the scholars were not successful in meeting their goals. These scholars needed support, encouragement, contact with people from their community beyond their own families and friends to be successful.

The Scholarship Board made tentative steps to address the unmet needs by assigning Board members to act as liaisons/mentors to the scholars. As the number of scholars increased - the CSP is currently funding 32 scholarships – the resources of the all-volunteer board became severely stretched. The Board seized on the opportunity to work with Leadership Charlottesville to look outside our own ranks for volunteers to create a vital and sustainable liaison/mentoring team.

Now renamed as “Navigators” rather than liaison/mentors, the Charlottesville Scholarship Program is excited to welcome volunteers who enjoy relating to older students, are willing to share their own college or work life experiences, encouraging students to keep going even when things get tough, remembering them on their birthdays with a card or note, sending a “care package” occasionally.   As one scholar reported, “knowing that there were people in my community who were supporting me and cared about me made me get out of bed in the morning to attend classes.”


Guest post by: Charlottesville Scholarship Program

Teacher. Mentor. Friend.

This volunteer profile originally appeared in this month's CharlottesvilleFamily Magazine's BRAVO! column and is reprinted here with their permission.


Diana Amatucci for webWhen Diana Amatucci retired from teaching after 35 years, most of them at Stony Point Elementary School, she quickly realized that she missed the kids and began looking around for a volunteer opportunity. She did not have to look far, as her husband credits his childhood experience at a Boys Club (now Boys & Girls) in Reading, PA, with exposing him to a world of opportunities. She contacted the Boys & Girls Club of Central Virginia and was quickly immersed in tutoring kids after school in their Cherry Avenue club.

“Diana makes each child feel special,” says Rebecca Hengstler, the Cherry Avenue unit director. “She gives the kids one-on-one attention they might not get otherwise. She uses her skills as a teacher and mother and friend and makes each one feel that what they say matters.”

Making a personal connection with the kids is one of Amatucci’s biggest rewards. “One little boy named Malaki comes to mind...I mentioned to him that his name was also the name of a beautiful green mineral "malachite" that comes from the Congo in Africa. We read information together about the gem and I brought him two small samples - one polished stone and one in its natural state. He was delighted, and his mom said he treasures them!”

Amatucci encourages others to volunteer with area youth; “Having kids make connections to their world is what learning is all about… our children are the future and will hopefully change the world for the better!”


January is National Mentoring Month. United Way’s Volunteer Center is sponsoring a Mentor & Tutor Volunteer Fair at the Omni Hotel on January 27 from 11 – 2. You can meet folks from the Boys & Girls Club and a dozen more local organizations. Visit www.CvilleVolunteer.org for more information.

Adults Need Tutors, Too!

During National Mentoring Month, we are hosting guest posts about mentoring. The following is from Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle.


Meet LVCA Tutor Cynthia Harrison and Rana, her ESL Student

Current Literacy Volunteers tutor Cynthia Harrison considered being a tutor for quite some time before making the leap. Like many of our tutors, she wasn’t sure she could make the time commitment along with working a full-time job. Prior to her retirement, Cynthia worked with the mental health agency Region 10 for thirty years as a therapist, administrator, and also a teacher, spending the last part of her career providing instruction on human services at Piedmont Virginia Community College.

“I had thought about tutoring…years and years ago, and I went to an orientation and at the time the training was very daunting, so I said no back then,” Cynthia explains. However, after she retired she was responsible for caring for her dying mother and the idea of tutoring literacy became a way to celebrate her mother’s love of reading.

“[My mother] was someone who read all the time. So one of my duties with her was to get her books….She couldn’t imagine how people could live if they couldn’t read. To honor her memory, I got back in touch with LVCA,” Cynthia explains.

RanaCynthiaLVCAShortly after completing the training in the summer of 2012, Cynthia was matched with Rana, a woman who relocated here from Iraq. Rana moved to the United States with her husband and son a little over a year ago. They settled in Charlottesville as both she and her husband have extended family here.

Cynthia and Rana connected quickly through Cynthia’s curiosity about Rana’s home culture. “I had her teach me some Arabic and she was astounded that I wanted to learn and that I knew something about Ramadan and Eid. She couldn’t believe it,” Cynthia says, adding that talking about culture—be it through Rana sharing stories about her family and friends back in Iraq or Cynthia helping Rana navigate the world of coupons—quickly became a cornerstone of their time together.

At first, Cynthia struggled a bit with managing her time preparing for each session. She worked hard on formulating elaborate lesson plans every week, but didn’t feel like they were working as well as she hoped. Finally, she went to Program Director Deanne Foerster out of frustration. Deanne helped Cynthia see there was no need to reinvent the wheel and that following the book wasn’t “slacking.” From then on, Cynthia let their text, English No Problem: Literacy, serve as foundation from which she and Rana could depart as needed.

One of Rana’s primary goals was to be able to communicate effectively with health care workers, so she and Cynthia used the Oxford Picture Dictionary to review medical terms. “My whole approach was practical,” Cynthia says. She learned quickly how to balance lessons from their text with Rana’s interests and concerns. As Rana’s skills developed, helping her open up about her life and concerns became the focus of their meetings. In preparation, Rana writes in a journal throughout the week. At their meetings, Cynthia and Rana talk about her sentences, or select a text from the LVCA library to discuss.

“I know English, but I don’t speak with [many] people,” Rana says. “[Cynthia’s] helped me with writing, reading, and talking. I want help with talking and she talks with me about my last week, what has happened. She’s very good.”

In addition to taking a genuine interest in a student’s culture and background, Cynthia advises new tutors that teaching adults—especially ESL students—is very different from working with children. “It’s important for a tutor to recognize, to value the fact, that the people who come here were competent adults in their own culture…and they’re incredibly brave to come here in the first place and what an incredible challenge they’re taking on,” Cynthia says. “I have nothing but admiration.”

Posted By: Literacy Volunteers of Charlottesville/Albemarle

You can learn more about Literacy Volunteers and meet with more than a dozen other local organizations that are looking for volunteers to become mentors and tutors at the United Way Volunteer Center's Mentor and Tutor Fair on Monday, January 27. We will be at the Omni Hotel on the Downtown Mall from 11 - 2. Parking is free at the Omni for fair attendees.

When it comes to volunteering, there are no small FISH!

During National Mentoring Month, we are hosting guest posts about mentoring. The following is from JABA's FISH (Friends in School Helping) program.

Although it was a cold, rainy day, the volunteer mentors and administrative staff enjoyed warm conversation and bright ideas during our winter professional service event.   The dual-purpose event served as a social event in which we were able to enjoy hot coffee and glorious snacks while we thanked our dedicated FISH mentors as well as a training opportunity where participants learned helpful tips about how to deal with challenging student behaviors.

FISH photoArea schools have benefited from JABA’s Friends in Schools Helping (FISH) program since its inception and it has grown to include over 100 volunteer mentors serving in the city of Charlottesville and surrounding counties.   Everyone who attended our recent “Coffee Klatch” shared “fish tales” (their favorites stories from FISH experiences) as they learned about strategies they could use in order to achieve even more success with the students they are helping.

One story in particular illustrated powerfully that truly there are no “small” jobs and that every act of a volunteer mentor has the potential to deeply affect a child’s life and positively influence his or her educational experience. One of our volunteer mentors, let’s call her “Sarah”, told of working with a particularly challenging student, let’s call him “Anthony”. Sarah described her regular routine in working with Anthony and told us how difficult it was for her to determine whether she was actually making a difference or not because Anthony never spoke to her. Turns out, he never spoke to anyone. He was physically able to speak, he just chose not to. During each visit, Sarah would help the teacher in various ways, including reading to Anthony, helping him complete classroom assignments, and working on math problems. Every session Sarah spoke to Anthony and asked questions as needed; each time, Anthony responded, but never verbally.

As Sarah spoke, we all found ourselves drawn in to her story, empathizing with the challenge and wondering what we would do if in a similar situation. Just that week, Sarah told us, she and Anthony had a breakthrough! It happened during the smallest of tasks: she was helping Anthony to put his coat on in order to go outside for recess. Since it was difficult for her to zip up his coat while she was facing him, she instead stood behind him and zipped him up that way. When she came back around to face him, Anthony said simply, “thank you.” SUCCESS!

In just such a way, we all learned that, when it comes to helping children, there are no small fish!


Posted by: Diana S. Perdue, PhD (Admin Staff, JABA FISH program)


You can learn more about JABA's FISH program and meet with more than a dozen other local organizations that are looking for volunteers to become mentors and tutors at the United Way Volunteer Center's Mentor and Tutor Fair on Monday, January 27. We will be at the Omni Hotel on the Downtown Mall from 11 - 2. Parking is free at the Omni for fair attendees.

Both Mentors and Kids Learn from Each Other

January is National Mentoring Month and all month long we'll be bringing you stories about local mentors. Thank you to Computers4Kids for providing us with this “conversation” with one of their Mentor and Mentee matches.

Mentor (Lisa):

Keshawna and I have been learning about good design, unique presentation tools, and a wide variety of software resources since first meeting in September. Our weekly visits are full of fun and challenge. Keshawna has taught me to be more confident in choosing new color templates and fonts as she is especially talented with art and graphic design. We are wrapping up our first project in a week, and are already talking about ideas for what's next. We want to learn more about coding and building a website. I continue to be inspired by Keshawna's maturity. Being her mentor has been a privilege and great fun!

Mentee (Keshawna):

At Computers4Kids, I am looking forward to building a website. I was first interested in making a website when I did coding at my school. I was surprised at how fun and interesting it was to do. During my time at Computers4Kids I have to do 2 projects. My first project is on different hip hop dancers. I made my presentation on prezi, an animated tool to make presentations more exciting.

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Mentor (Lisa):

Here is a screen shot of Keshawna's prezi! The live version features edited photos, imbedded video, and a little surprise musical question created using a track in Garage Band and Audacity for the viewer. It helps to connect the audience to the message. The prezi is a fun and engaging story about three popular hip hop artists, all new to me, but I really like its style!


At our United Way Volunteer Center’s Mentor & Tutor Volunteer Fair on January 27, you can visit with representatives of Computers4Kids and a dozen more local organizations. Find the fit that is right for you!


Posted by: Kim Connolly

YOU Can Be The Change. Become A Volunteer Mentor Or Tutor.

Mentor photo  text 2014We all want children to live up to their full potential, but sometimes their circumstances work against them.

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 lots of organizations in our area that work with kids, and they are looking for volunteers. It is not hard work: take a kid along with you when you plant your garden or visit the library. Read a book or walk your dog together. Share your passion for art…or music…or math…or baseball.

As a matter of fact, adults who are mentors say that they feel they get just as much out of the experience as the kids!

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 Monday, January 27 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, and who would love to help you become a mentor or tutor, visit CvilleVolunteer.org.

We hope to see you on January 27!

Mentor. Tutor. Pass it on!


Posted by: Kim Connolly

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