“I just needed someone to talk to”: Mentor program offers more than just tutoring

Community Reports

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – An Albuquerque elementary school and a local tutoring organization are piloting an online mentoring program to help cultivate students’ love for reading. Lew Wallace Elementary School and Albuquerque Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring Program are joining elders in the community with elementary students virtually.

Vicki DeVigne, the Albuquerque Oasis tutoring program director said the idea was a collaboration between herself and Lew Wallace Principal Anne Marie Strangio. The program had already been active in the school for a few years but due to COVID-19 closures, they had to rethink how one-on-one tutoring could still continue.

DeVigne worried about the tutors being able to connect online with students. “Not to in any way generalize too much, but a lot of volunteers in demographic that I work with do not necessarily want to do a lot of things online,” DeVigne said. “The volunteers have really stepped out of their comfort zone because they really want to make this work for students.”

Strangio said the first week of online tutoring was tough for students and mentors to get used to doing things virtually, but she was encouraged to witness the learning happening for both parties involved. Jonnae is a second-grade student at Lew Wallace and said her favorite part of tutoring is spending time with someone new. “I’ve been isolated here and I just needed that, I just needed someone to talk to,” Jonnae said.

“I’ve been isolated here and I just needed that, I just needed someone to talk to.”

Jonnae, 2nd grade student at Lew wallace elementary

John Chavez, Jonnae’s father, said Jonnae was hesitant to participate at first because of the negative stigma around tutoring. “Every Thursday is now like Friday here in the house. When Ms. Laurel comes on that screen, it’s go-time and she just absolutely loves it,” Chavez said. “To sit back and just hear your child excelling and thriving and connecting is so good.”

Tate is in third grade at Lew Wallace Elementary and one of the very first participants of the Oasis program. Earlvandaline Begaye, Tate’s mother, said the program has helped him find a passion for reading. “When he started the program, it really showed him not only the importance of reading but also that it could be fun,” Begaye said. “Coming from the Native American community and as a college graduate, I’m just so grateful for it because I believe reading is so essential.”

Laurel Anderson and Fred Grambort are Jonnae and Tate’s mentors and both agreed the mentors get just as much out of it as the students do. Grambort came from a career in pediatrics and Anderson is a retired teacher. “I would introduce myself to the teacher and tell them I’m not trying to take their place, but I’m hoping to present reading as an enjoyable experience, and kind of present myself almost like, I’m not their grandfather, but they could imagine that would be the status of my position in the system,” Grambort said.

To learn more about the program or volunteer as a mentor, visit the Albuquerque Oasis Intergenerational Tutoring website.

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