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It Takes a Village

School volunteers are making a difference

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"It takes a village to raise a child." While the origins of this proverb are still being debated, it does honor the influence that individuals outside the family have on a child's development.

For over 14 years, volunteers have been quietly helping our dedicated public school teachers raise Sonoma County students. School volunteers, working one-to-one with students, have a significant impact on student success. Volunteer tutors help students increase their academic skills as well as promote more positive attitudes toward learning and school.

School volunteers in the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County's Literacy Connection work one-to-one with students to increase reading and math skills in grades K–12. Tutors in the United Way of the Wine Country's Schools of Hope work one-to-one with students to increase literacy rates in grades K–3. Last year, 517 volunteers made a difference in the lives of 3,690 students.

In fact, every school day there are volunteers somewhere at work in our public schools, helping our teachers improve the future outlook of our community. These volunteers actively support economic initiatives such as Upstream Investments, Healthy Sonoma 2020 and Cradle to Career. Volunteers are having a direct impact on student achievement as reported by teachers.

However, Sonoma County's need is great. Our village needs more volunteer school tutors. We have 5,564 first graders and 54 percent of them will not be proficient readers by the end of third grade. We have 5,767 ninth graders and 22 percent of them will not graduate from high school on time.

To address this need, the Literacy Connection and Schools of Hope programs are expanding to new schools and increasing the number of grade levels served at participating schools. We need over 300 new volunteer tutors this school year.

I encourage anyone who has a desire to help a child succeed to become a volunteer tutor. No experience is necessary. The Volunteer Center of Sonoma County, Literacy Connection recruits, trains, and matches volunteers with the needs of students and teachers in our community. For information, call 707.573.3399, ext. 121. Volunteer orientations begin in August with a special event on Aug. 23.

Gretchen Werner is a Literacy Associate for the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County.We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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