Learning skills, friendships benefit from tutor program

Tutor Terry Farina and student Dylan Bogart work together at Mesa View Elementary School in Grand Junction. Tutors in the community program meet weekly with their students for one hour.

When Terry Farina and Dylan Bogart began meeting for their weekly tutoring sessions, neither of them knew their friendship would develop beyond reading.

Farina told Dylan about the places he had traveled in the world, and Dylan acquainted him with popular fifth-grade lingo, such as “cheese touch.”

Farina and Dylan were paired through “The 500 Plan,” an ambitious idea launched in October by a forum of community leaders associated with the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce.

Their idea was to recruit 500 volunteers to read with local schoolchildren to help create a world-class education system. That, ideally, would result in greater economic development in the area.

Farina, a member of the chamber’s original think tank that came up with the idea, began tutoring Bogart at Chatfield Elementary School each week.

They followed the “Read, Write, Talk” program by Stephanie Harvey, a program to enhance reading comprehension. They also read “Time Magazine for Kids,” which is part of the suggested curriculum provided by School District 51’s volunteer training program.

But, like most 11-year-old boys, Dylan really wanted to read the popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney. Together, they laughed over the antics of the main character, Greg Heffley, and his middle-school friends who suffered from the “cheese touch.”

“For me, I knew that just one hour a week would have a real positive impact,” Farina said, adding he felt like the most important message he was sending was that he was one more person, in addition to Dylan’s parents and teachers, who cared about this child.

They enjoyed their time together so much that neither wanted to stop reading when the quarter ended. It was a bit of a sticking point, however, that Dylan would be moving to a different school in the district, one that was not participating in the 500 Plan program.

Farina petitioned the district to add Mesa View Elementary, Dylan’s new school, into the program.

“I just wanted to stick with him a little bit longer,” said Farina, the only 500 Plan volunteer at the school.

Dylan is glad Farina is still his tutor, and he hopes others find the time to tutor kids.

“They might find a kid that they really like,” he said, “because I found a guy that I really like to read with and talk to.”

“Educating our young people is a community responsibility because we all have a vested interest in our youth succeeding,” Farina said. “If we are going to be of assistance, we really need to get big numbers of volunteers.”

The number of tutors in the program decreased from 99 to 83 after winter break, said Jeannie Smith, district volunteer coordinator.

Farina said he hopes enough volunteers will step forward this year so the program can be expanded beyond elementary literacy to other branches of learning, including science and math for upper grade levels.

“Time is the variable here,” he explained. “We need more people just adding a helping hand to all levels of students.”

“The kids are very receptive and excited to have that one-on-one time with someone,” Smith said, adding that training is only a two-hour process, which includes paperwork and finger-printing. Volunteer tutors are required to be at least 18 years old and submit to a background check.

Volunteers meet weekly with their student for one hour. To volunteer, call 254-5114 or visit http://www.gjchamber.org/500plan.asp.


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