2010-03-11 / Schools

Study buddy group reaches out to Glenwood

By Joann Groff joann@theacorn.com

Every Tuesday at around 3 p.m., about 35 Glenwood Elementary students, led by a group of volunteers, march down Windsor Drive in Thousand Oaks.

The kids are headed to Study Buddy, a once-a-week tutoring program at United Methodist Church that helps youngsters with their reading and homework.

The program, a partnership between the school and the church now in its second year, is led by volunteers.

They tutor first- through third-graders from Glenwood, a Title I school where many of the students are English-languagelearners.

“Most of the kids are at least a grade level behind in their reading,” said Dori Fotsch, Study Buddy coordinator and the church’s youth director. “A lot of students come to the school not knowing a lick of English. And there’s not a lot of reinforcement at home because they’re mostly Spanish speakers.”

There are about 10 adults from the church who volunteer and another 20 or so from the community.

“Our church is kind of the base of volunteers,” Fotsch said, adding that they have student volunteers from Los Cerritos and Redwood middle schools and Thousand Oaks and Oaks Christian high schools.

Students from California Lutheran University come in spurts, Fotsch said.

During the two-hour meeting, there is playtime, when the group plays sports, and reading time when, depending on the age, students read to tutors or tutors read to students. Sometimes Girl Scouts come by to play music with the kids.

Fotsch said the main focus is assisting the children with homework and literacy.

“Everybody who helps is really dedicated,” she said.

Diana Mendiola, a freshman at Thousand Oaks High School, started coming to Study Buddy to look after her brother, who was receiving tutoring.

“My brother has ADHD, and I’m really the only one who can control him, so I started coming with him to tutoring,” Diana said.

“I worked well with other kids, too, and I started helping out,” she said.

Diana is in her second year as a tutor and plans to continue throughout high school.

“Coming here I’ve seen that kids can realize learning can be fun and you can get an education and do well in school and still have free time,” she said. “The first-graders from last year have become so much more mature. We’ve become a family, and we’ve learned different lessons together.”

Nelly Farfan, 7, said she likes to read and play games at tutoring, but the help she gets is most important.

“People help me with my homework when I don’t understand it,” she said earnestly.

Jessica Nimie, an eighthgrader at Los Cerritos, said she’s seen big changes in the children she’s tutored.

“It’s really fun helping the kids,” she said. “I’ve definitely seen a difference. Some kids had a lot of trouble reading—they didn’t even know a lot of words. Now they are reading more fluently.”

Two years ago, church officials asked the Montessori school that was renting the church’s classrooms to “find a new home,” Fotsch said.

“We wanted to use our facilities for more outreach,” she said. “We wanted to start having that relationship with the community. And this was something we could do to help.

“Our church has always been very outreach focused, but the children’s area is new. Our church sits in a highly Spanishspeaking community, and we felt the need to help.”

On other days the classrooms are used by Boy Scouts, Sunday School and other events. Study Buddy also hosts Saturday programs that have focused on drama, literacy, science and puppetry.

Fotsch said that while they’d love to accommodate more kids, they are at a limit they feel comfortable with.

Glenwood has requested a second day of tutoring, and the group is looking into it.

The program has a waiting list.

There is an application process for tutors, and students are asked to have a B average or higher and teacher recommendation.

Background checks, and often some training, are required for adults.

Fotsch said she’d like to have enough volunteers for one-onone tutoring, but now it’s mostly about one tutor for every two students.

For more information about becoming a volunteer, call Fotsch at the United Methodist Church of Thousand Oaks at (805) 495-7215.

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