One hour a week. That’s all it takes to help change a child’s life—and possibly yours.
It’s fun, too. It’s called Oasis, and it’s a national, nonprofit educational tutoring program that anyone can get involved in.
The intergenerational program pairs adult volunteers with young students, grades K-3, to help children improve their reading skills.
Oasis has been very successful in the Ramona Unified School District for the past 12 years. It is used to supplement struggling students by giving them one-on-one tutoring, which can be hard to come by with deep budget cuts.
That is why volunteers are so crucial to the program, but, according to Oasis Coordinator and Teacher on Assignment Linda Ball, the need is much greater than the tutors available.
“Originally, the program was designed for older, often retired adults,” said Ball. “The response to the program has been overwhelming. So the program has expanded to include parents and community members, maybe with young children themselves. We also have college students serving as volunteers, sometimes for community service credit, but most often just looking to give back to the community.”
One group freshly trained in OASIS is from Montecito High School. The students already had an established relationship with their Ramona Elementary neighbors through a tutoring program where they would work in small groups helping grade schoolers in math and reading. That program is run by MHS counselor Mayra Vasquez and RE teacher Laura Kitchen.
“They do a fabulous job,” said Ball.
So, teachers wanted to take it to the next level and have the students use a research-based program that would provide needed reading support on a consistent basis.
“OASIS seemed to be a good fit,” said Ball. “The tutors were already in place at the school. I just provided the materials and training for those same tutors to be able to provide needed one-on-one support. Currently, eight Montecito and Future Bound students tutor one or two students once a week in the OASIS program, as well as continue with their previous classroom support.”
Montecito is Ramona Unified School District’s alternative high school and Future Bound is its independent program for secondary students.
The student volunteers who already are Oasis trained are Maria Vargas, Juanita Garcia, Luis Figueroa, Alma Jimenez, Caitlin Meeks, Alyssa Franco, Carlos Torres and Andres Ramos.
According to Ball, the students responded very well to training. They received instruction in the background and philosophy of the program as well as detailed instruction in the six-part OASIS session plan. Following that, they were provided the opportunity to practice a session with elementary students with her in the room to give feedback and answer questions.
“I was truly impressed with how easily they established rapport with the younger students and how they skillfully worked through the session plan giving guidance and encouragement,” she said.
From here, Ball hopes to continue building the program and gather additional volunteers. This trial only started mid-year for the students and she hopes to be able to start it at the beginning of the next school year.
“I’ll provide ongoing support with trainings to share books and strategies,” said Ball. “The meetings also allow the tutors to share their experiences: what is working well and where they may need ideas or support.”
Ball did notice that the younger students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program.
“The (high school) students develop a sense of responsibility to their younger students,” she said. “They also see the importance and are now part of developing literacy for our community. They are living their school mission of ‘becoming academically and socially competent in order to lead successful and productive lives, and sharing the responsibility of creating a safe and positive learning environment.’”
For more information, e-mail Ball at firstname.lastname@example.org.