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TutorMate Helps Local First Grade Students Improve Their Reading Comprehension

TutorMate Helps Local First Grade Students Improve Their Reading Comprehension


Imagine every week, you could give back to your community by helping a child improve their reading skills, all from the comfort of your desk. In this age of technology, this scenario is possible, all because of TutorMate.

TutorMate is the nation’s leading online volunteer tutoring program, helping thousands upon thousands of first grade students from low income neighborhoods across the country expand their reading comprehension. Locally, Santa Ana Unified School District’s “Santa Ana Reads” program, Innovations for Learning and Orange County United Way have partnered to bring this online tutoring program to struggling readers in our community.

Orange County professionals are able to remotely tutor their assigned first grade students once a week for 30 minutes using a telephone and shared-screen online tutoring website. During these weekly sessions, mentors and students interact through joint activities such as flash cards, word sorting, tic tac toe and stories of varying reading levels.

Several local businesses encouraged tutors to participate including United Way, Edwards Lifesciences, US Bank, Amway, Ingram Micro, KPMG and University of California, Irvine.

“Participating in the TutorMate program through United Way was one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences of my life,” said Katrina Headle, Senior Corporate Giving Specialist at Edwards Lifesciences. “I couldn’t wait to work with my student for our scheduled weekly tutoring sessions and our time together always felt personal and impactful.”

There were 150 students that participated with the help of 150 volunteer mentors during this successful first run of TutorMate in Orange County. The dedication of these mentors, with over 1150 hours logged, and hard work by the students has certainly paid off. Looking at a 1-60 scale, students who participated in the program, on average, increased their reading levels by 20 points and some by over 30 points!

Research has shown that students who aren’t able to read at grade level by 3rd grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. TutorMate is a key program that is helping to reach the communitywide goal to cut the high school dropout rate in half by 2024.

After months of tutoring sessions over the phone, mentors and students had the opportunity to finally meet each other in person during the year-end celebrations at the participating 18 first grade classrooms across six Santa Ana schools. Cards and hugs were exchanged between the pairs during these celebrations as students and volunteers formed close bonds over their mutual appreciation of reading. And while the mentors taught their students how to improve their reading skills over many months, the students taught their mentors what it truly means to give.

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