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Mentoring program needs volunteers

Date: 2/8/2012

Feb. 8, 2012

By Lori Szepelak

HOLYOKE — A 12-hour tutor training session is slated to begin in early February, and volunteers are still needed to ensure that all participants in the Holyoke Tutor/Mentor Program have the support they need, according to Emily Fox, program coordinator.

“Tutoring is great for all involved,” Fox said during an interview with Reminder Publications. “Tutors enjoy their time with us, the teachers really appreciate having them participate as classroom assistants, and the learners get a lot out of the individual attention.”

Fox added that in addition to the many "little victories,” it’s “exciting” when someone passes the General Education Development (GED).

“It’s inspiring to help people who are working to improve their lives,” she said.

For seven years, Fox has recruited volunteers from the community and local colleges, trained them as tutors, and placed them in one of the city’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) or English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes.

The program is operated in conjunction with the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce, and is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a Community Development Block Grant.

“Holyoke has a lot of residents who do not speak English well or who do not have a GED or high school diploma, which affects their ability to earn a living wage,” Fox said. “Our program strengthens our community for residents to be well educated and employable.”

A wide variety of area residents currently volunteer, ranging in age from young adults to senior citizens. Fox estimated that this spring there are approximately 288 students in need of tutoring services. The majority of the learners are in their mid 20s to late 40s, however, anyone age 16 or older can become a part of the program.

“The Commonwealth provides very limited funding for ABE classes, so in Holyoke we always have hundreds of people on the waiting list,” Fox said.

Fox noted that tutors help students progress “more quickly,” because one teacher is not enough to help everyone.

“Tutors open up room for those on the waiting lists to get into classes,” she added.

In addition to recruiting and training, Fox keeps track of everyone who is placed in the program, stays in touch with the teachers and tutors to see how the process is going, and organizes get-togethers for the tutors. She also prepares monthly data reports for funders.

No previous skills are necessary to become a tutor, although bilingual Spanish speakers with math and science skills are particularly needed. Classes are conducted mornings and afternoons to fit everyone’s schedules.

For more information on the free training, contact Fox at 552-2932 or via email to . Registration is required for the February training session.

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