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CHC in the Press: Volunteer Tutors Provide Struggling Kids with Social-Emotional Stability and Academic Help

December 7, 2017, News

More than 2,000 students are served by All Students Matter, a volunteer-driven nonprofit providing literacy, math and social-emotional support to elementary school students in the Ravenswood City School District. All Students Matter received $5,000 from the Palo Alto Weekly Holiday Fund this year, paying for new volunteer training that the organization’s founder described as “invaluable.”

As All Students Matter has grown — from 15 people informally volunteering in one Ravenswood school 10 years ago to more than 200 volunteers at six schools — so have the needs of the students it serves. This is reflected in the revamped training, which now consists of one hour focused on literacy and, new last year, one hour on social-emotional support.

All Students Matter Executive Director Carolyn Blatman, who is unpaid, said the addition of social-emotional training is a direct result of seeing more students struggling with unstable housing conditions in East Palo Alto. The number fluctuates throughout the year, but most recently, 44 percent of Ravenswood students were identified as homeless, she said. Many others live in overcrowded homes with multiple families, are acting as parents to younger siblings or might not have the time or space to read quietly or get a good night’s sleep. She said the organization has seen more and more students in recent years dealing with these kind of problems, which manifest in students acting out in the classroom.

All Students Matter has also brought in organizations like the counseling nonprofit Cassy and youth mental health nonprofit Children’s Health Council to speak to volunteers.

The literacy training is now more like a workshop instead of a lecture and mirrors what the district provides to its own teachers. All Students Matter’s part-time program manager, Keri Tully, a former teacher, developed the training in conjunction with Ravenswood’s reading and writing specialists. (Tully is the only paid staff member at All Students Matter. The majority of the nonprofit’s $50,000 budget funds her salary; the rest goes towards books for students, lunch for teachers, literacy kits and other materials.)

The volunteers, like All Students Matter’s founders, are mostly parents from neighboring, higher-achieving and more affluent districts. The nonprofit also offers monthly “coffees” for volunteers to meet one another and ask questions. These events and the new training go a long way toward retaining volunteers, which in turn provides consistency to students and teachers.

This year, All Students Matter met its goal of being in all six Ravenswood schools at all grades, from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. Blatman said the organization has no plans to grow beyond Ravenswood — she thinks it’s most effective working locally — but there are plans to refine the program and expand within the district. A math pilot project will start in early 2018, and they’re working more intensively with students who are reading just below grade level.

Excerpted from the Palo Alto Online article “Educating Students, One by One,” published 12/01/17 . Read the full article here. If you would like to get involved with All Students Matter, learn more here.

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