Teachers have tough jobs as they try to meet the academic needs of large classes. So when students start to fall behind for any number of reasons, there isn’t always enough class time to make sure they get caught up.
This is where Whiz Kids Tutoring comes in. Since 1990, the organization has worked to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth, through free, one-on-one academic tutoring and mentoring.
Currently, Whiz Kids operates 54 tutoring sites throughout the Denver metro area, serving around 800 elementary and middle school students. They select schools with high percentages of students on free and reduced lunch, then offer tutoring after school.
When selecting schools to help, Whiz Kids also looks at churches and organizations near the school from which they could recruit a dedicated group of volunteer tutors. “We don’t want to just come into the school for one year and then leave,” says Angie Kinney, a field director for Whiz Kids. “Volunteers are ourblood line, and we couldn’t do this without them.”
Once a school is selected, Whiz Kids pays a liaison teacher from that school to determine the school’s greatest academic needs, with a focus on reading and math proficiency. From there, field directors like Kinney train volunteer tutors from the community to come into the school once per week for an hour and a half. Following tutoring, Whiz Kids also offers a Christian-based group program with songs and activities—optional to students, and only offered with signed parent permission.
And research shows that Whiz Kids Tutoring is making a difference. Students participating in Whiz Kids demonstrate a 50 percent drop in behavior problems, reading proficiency increases by six percent per academic year, and school attendance is always higher on the students” tutoring day.
Kinney has even seen Whiz Kids students come back to volunteer as tutors many years later. “They want that one-on-one time,” Kinney says. “We see (student) confidence build, as (the tutor) invests in them to be the best they can be, both academically and as a person.”
How Families Can Help: Volunteer to tutor students one-on-one through Whiz Kids. No experience is necessary; Whiz Kids provides training. “You just have to have the ability to read, pass a background check and love a child,” says Kinney. Tutoring requires an October through April time commitment, for one and a half hours per week, so tutors can develop relationships with students. “They can’t learn from someone they don’t like,” Kinney adds.
High school students age 16 and up, as well as adults, are needed. Occasionally, team tutors can be used, consisting of an adult parent tutor and an older child who also has an interest in helping younger students. In some situations, tutors are asked to provide transportation for students to and from tutoring sites.