United Way’s Schools of Hope Initiative is implementing five key strategies to ensure all students succeed and graduate from high school regardless of race. These include small class size in early grades, in class assessments, consistent curriculum, teacher training and mobilizing trained tutors to work one-on-one with students in concert with the classroom teacher’s curriculum.

We are deeply moved on a daily basis by the stories of the incredible work our teachers in Dane County are doing. They have been such a key partner in making the tutoring element of our Schools of Hope successful for the student, the tutor and the community.

Over the years, so many incredible testimonials from Schools of Hope AmeriCorp members who are mobilizing tutors talking about their experience in the classroom have been shared with us. They talk about the incredible leadership of the teachers, the eagerness of the students they work with and the passion and energy they gain from the experience. We wanted to share some of these testimonials with you.

Please share these with your friends, family and community. If you would like to become a tutor click here.  Remember, change can’t happen without a community taking action.

Jessie Kember, Nuestro Mundo Elementary
The kindergarten teachers at Nuestro Mundo have been very receptive to ELK (Elementary Learning Kits). They have been enthusiastic, and show a great interest in the purpose and goals that ELK aims to achieve. The new principal at Nuestro Mundo is very invested in ELK, which helps increase general interest and support for the program. When I first presented the program to one of the kindergarten teachers, she simply said, “This is a gift!”  According to the kindergarten teachers, ELK is providing students with “exactly what they need right now.” They need to remain active learners, even after they step foot out of the school each day. They need to actively engage in learning with family members, and ELK is a program that can help with this process.  It is particularly exciting to be able to provide kindergarten students with books in Spanish that they can keep in their home.

I checked in with teachers after they had distributed the first round of kits to their students, and the feedback was very positive! One of the kindergarten teachers has extended ELK beyond its primary objective. Before she distributed the kits, she looked through the book, and incorporated activities specific to the book into her lesson plan during the school day. She explained that she wanted to give the students an idea of what kind of book they would be taking home to their families, while also giving them the opportunity to practice in the classroom!

The kindergarten teachers have continued to receive positive feedback from their students about this resource they are sharing with their families. One kindergarten teacher mentioned that many of her students are learning lessons beyond the immediate text of the book. For example, one student stated that she already owned the book that was being given the first week. The teacher then asked the student, “If you already own the book, what is something else you could do with it?” The student immediately acknowledged that she could give the book to a sibling or a friend, teaching a lesson in the importance of sharing.

Carolyn Seashore, Lapham Elementary
Our new principal has been great to work with and is very supportive of the Schools of Hope program. I’ve had a very positive experience working with him thus far. In addition to volunteer coordination at Lapham, I organized and hosted the first literacy night ever held at the school. The principal encouraged the idea at one of our weekly meetings and I enthusiastically agreed to take on the lead role of planning the event. Students and their families came to Lapham to listen to children’s stories read by three different readers, one of which was spoken in Spanish. Lapham’s former principal even agreed to be one of the volunteer readers. It was a fun event for the school and families to encourage a love of reading at a young age. Snacks and free books, donated from Half Price Books, were provided for each family. Overall, the event was very successful. I’m looking forward to planning another literacy night this spring!

Nate Peterson, Lowell Elementary
For the past two years, Lowell has run an after-school homework club specifically for Latino students. The program started last year when a number of parents approached the principal with the idea. At the very beginning of this year, she approached me asking for my help in recruiting tutors. By mid-October, I had interviewed and successfully oriented seven volunteer tutors who now regularly assist with the club on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Of the 26 students who currently attend, most come from Spanish-speaking households and all are currently learning English as a second language. As an organizer and tutor for the program, I have had the privilege of getting to know these wonderful students. Witnessing their ever-growing excitement for learning and camaraderie as a group has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my year so far. Schools of Hope has really helped to ensure the sustainability and success of this program.

Rachel Mishler, Creekside Elementary
One of the greatest successes during the second quarter at Creekside was a particular student/tutor match. The student’s relationship with his tutor is truly helping to make school a more positive and safe learning place for him (and his classmates). At the start of the year, this little guy had a very hard time withstanding a full day of school and I saw him in the principal’s and psychologist’s office almost daily. He continually disrupted his classroom and threatened to hurt himself. There was even one occasion in which he made his way out of the school and started running across the parking lot.

His teacher was extremely concerned and approached me about matching the student with a male tutor. She felt a male role model would have a positive effect on his learning (since he doesn’t have a dad at home). Luckily, I had not yet placed one of our returning tutors who both serves as a male role model and offers a culturally congruent relationship for the student. They work extremely well together and every Thursday I hear the student asking his teacher when Mr. H. is coming to tutor him. He looks forward to learning on those days and seems much more willing to patiently listen in class until Mr. H. comes to get him. Because of this positive redirection, the teacher deals with fewer interruptions and can focus her attention on the rest of the class. This match goes to show the potential magnitude of Schools of Hope as an intervention. In this case, the student receives academic support, but also emotional/psychological support. He’s happier and healthier.