SAN JOSE (September 23, 2020) — In the midst of pandemic-driven cancellations and a myriad of uncertainties, local volunteer program Read Write Discover (RWD) managed to host a highly successful summer tutoring program, providing supplementary reading and writing lessons to K-8th grade students throughout the South Bay. Thanks to a small group of dedicated volunteers, the program was able to quickly and effectively restructure for distance learning. In partnership with local library branches, RWD was able to host 5 sites, recruit 146 high school volunteer tutors, and enroll 198 students for virtual tutoring sessions.
The program is dedicated to mitigating summer learning loss and providing leadership opportunities for local high schoolers. Recruitment and training for volunteers typically occurs during the spring, while community outreach and learner enrollment begins shortly before the summer starts. Throughout the summer, tutors and students meet at least once every week.
Things were proceeding as planned until mid-March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures nationwide. It became clear that there were only two options for Read Write Discover: shut down or adapt. With just 8 people on board at the time, it would have been much easier to call it quits. There were more important things to worry about — the county had just ordered a shelter-in-place for the first time, we witnessed grocery store mania through our phone screens, and we still had very little understanding of the virus that caused everything. In addition to this, summer learning, though beneficial, is considered gratuitous by many. If Read Write Discover had halted its operations in the spring, it would have been received with no less than the complete understanding of the community it serves. Yet, knowing all these things, the group was determined to try.
“Education does not have to take a backseat ever. Even when the world is in shambles, I can rest assured that RWD is still going strong.”
- Kathleen H., Program Coordinator of Milpitas/Fremont Community.
For the program to continue, internal leadership had to be more committed than ever before. It was an unprecedented time: for the past 13 years, the program had been structured around individualized in-person tutoring. But in compliance with social-distancing orders, that was no longer possible. Unable to gather and without a budget, these dedicated volunteers turned to the internet. In just two months, RWD adapted their operations to support continual growth, streamlined their internal communications, and facilitated remote tutoring by using a variety of online tools.
With the students returning to school and the program transitioning into it’s off-season, it seems like the past five months have just flown by. Since then, Read Write Discover is expected to promote several of its volunteers to take on leadership roles for next year’s summer program. In the meantime, internal efforts are focused on refining their trainings and strengthening community engagement.