GJ Forum volunteers begin to reach schools

Betty Bechtel helps Chatfield Elementary School fourth-grader Jayme Rowe as part of The 500 Plan tutoring effort launched by the Grand Junction Forum, a think tank of community leaders and residents that recently turned its attention to the goal of a world-class education for Grand Valley students.

The 500 Plan is 400 volunteers away from living up to its name.

About 100 people handed in applications to be elementary school reading tutors, falling short of the Grand Junction Forum’s original wish to have 500 people tutor School District 51 children for eight weeks. The forum, which is affiliated with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce, launched The 500 Plan last month as a way to lead local students toward a world-class education.

Seventy-seven of the 83 people who have been trained for the children’s tutoring program began volunteering Wednesday. Some will start next week.

People can still sign up to start next Wednesday as tutors or inquire about volunteering during the next eight-week quarter beginning in January by contacting the chamber at 242-3214 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Chatfield, Chipeta, Dos Rios, Rim Rock and Rocky Mountain elementary schools are the first to host The 500 Plan tutors for their third- through fifth-graders who are partially proficient in reading. All tutors went through a background check, which included fingerprinting, and a two-hour training session about how the district reading curriculum works and how to help children learn better reading skills.

Betty Bechtel, a lawyer and Grand Junction Forum member, said the training eased her hesitation about being a tutor.

“It helps you see you can do it,” Bechtel said.

Bechtel said her tutoring duties would include taking turns reading with a Chatfield student, helping the student interpret difficult words and discussing the content of the book.

The tutors in the program are from all age groups and industries, Bechtel said.

Michele Grider works for Bank of Colorado and signed up for the program after she heard about it at work. Her employer pays her for the time she is tutoring.

“It gives people the ability to volunteer and not stress about missing work,” Grider said.

Even people without these arrangements don’t have to shy away from a commitment to the program, Bechtel said. She estimates the tutoring and driving time will cost her about 90 minutes a week away from work.

“Missing one lunch a week should make up for it,” she said.


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