Volunteer tutors help educate children
When Assistance League of Santa Barbara members Joan Dinaberg and Ann Bennett met with representatives of the Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara in 2002, a partnership began that was to brighten the futures for many of the children living within its housing facilities.
Since then, the Assistance League philanthropy, named Family Learning Center, has been providing tutoring and mentoring support to participating children and their families.
During the school year, kindergarteners through sixth graders and Assistance League tutors have met Monday through Thursday afternoons at the Santa Barbara Housing Authority Family Opportunity Complex until the COVID-19 crisis.
When the Family Learning Center fall program begins Monday, there will be one-hour online tutoring sessions four days a week via Zoom.
The COVID pandemic didn’t put a stop to the learning this summer.
In an adaptive, innovative program, Assistance League volunteer tutors met with children online twice a week via 45-minute Zoom sessions, supplying them with a variety of fun and educational materials and activities.
“Each week there was something to bake such as brownies, cinnamon buns, peanut butter bars, etc.,” said Penny Luce, philanthropy chair, who was assisted by a team of league tutors.
They included Jerrie Wright, Barbe Abbott, Melanie Szymanski, Ann Bennett, Chris Hagan, Elsbeth Kleen, Susie Kircos and Gloria Dominquez. Members of Santa Barbara Assisteens also helped out.
“The special projects were put together by the tutors and delivered to Charla Bregante, resident programs coordinator for the Housing Authority, who delivered them to the families,” said Ms. Luce. “The projects were for the students to work on outside of Zoom time, but they were encouraged to talk about and/or show the completed projects during the Zoom sessions.”
For one of the projects, the children were shown pictures of a variety of still life artwork after which they were given watercolor paints and paper and asked to create their own still lifes later in the week.
For another, they were given toothpicks and marshmallows to make a variety of three-dimensional geometric shapes.
“One of my favorite projects was the perspective week,” said Ms. Luce. “The children were asked to take photographs to illustrate perspective. One student showed a photograph that had her little brother on the sidewalk holding a group of people in the palm of his hand. It was interesting listening to her describe how much planning and experimenting she and her brother had to do to set the shot up just right.”
Ms. Luce said she found it “very satisfying to see how successful the students were in thinking and planning on their own. They really needed to work them out on their own. I think their results were really good, but as a classroom teacher, I know that had the projects been done in class probably the adults would have been way too tempted to step in to give help and advice.”
Ms. Bregante said the Housing Authority couldn’t run its after-school program, which is called the GRAD Academy, without the tutors.
“They are dedicated, compassionate, flexible, patient and generous with their time and resources. They are always game to try something new and support me in so many ways as we work together on our common goal of providing an environment that sparks the intellectual curiosity, creativity and self-confidence in the kids we work with.”
She explained that the GRAD Academy is part of the Housing Authority’s larger GRAD initiative, which was founded on the belief that moving families out of poverty takes a multigenerational approach.
“We strive to provide academic support and connections to community resources for children and their families through the GRAD Academy, Teen Academy, Parent Advisory Committee and more,” said Ms. Bregante. “At the GRAD Academy, we invite parents to contribute and celebrate with us throughout the year.”