South San Francisco, CA March 5, 2020 Submitted by Shea Krause, Reading Partners
Many potential Reading Partners tutors often ask what the best part about volunteering with Reading Partners is, and that answer can be different for everyone. For Leroy Lindo, an 8-year Reading Partners tutor, San Francisco native, and retired San Francisco Police captain, he just enjoys being a part of the growth process. “I enjoy just being a part of the process, you know?… As I tell my students, reading is knowledge and knowledge is power.” Reading Partners is a national literacy nonprofit that works with elementary school students who are reading anywhere from 6 months to 2 and a half years behind grade level proficiency. Our organization is currently working out of 28 total school sites in the greater Bay Area, with 12 partner schools in San Francisco and 16 in the East Bay. We connect with community members like Leroy to provide students with one-on-one weekly tutoring sessions using our proven curriculum.
Leroy has been a committed tutor at Reading Partners for 8 years since he retired as Commander at the San Francisco Police Department. He has even stayed with the program after we discontinued services at the local elementary school he originally began tutoring at 8 years ago. He says that he was brought up to give back and to help others, so when his coworker explained what Reading Partners is and asked if he was interested, he got involved. “I have a passion for working with kids. I have a passion for the future of our kids,” he explained after his tutoring session at Hillcrest Elementary School. The one-on-one tutoring aspect of Reading Partners allows students and tutors to form a close mentor-mentee bond. Tutors get to work with the same students each week and some tutors find the time to work with the same student 2 times per week. Lindo shared funny stories about his students and when asked about his favorite part of volunteering, he said, “I like when a child has that ‘aha’ moment. They get it, they understand the lesson, and we kind of congratulate each other. I always typically tell them at the end of the lesson that they did a great job. Sometimes I ask them how well they think they did just to get feedback from their perspective.”
Leroy is just one of the thousands of volunteers nationally who make this commitment to the children in their community, but we still need more. There is a lot of economic opportunity within the Bay Area, but it is hard to take advantage of when you have fallen behind in the critical skills needed to prosper in school and beyond. The startling reality is that only 34% of California’s 4th graders are reading at grade level proficiency. We need more tutors like Leroy, and more tutors like you, to help empower Bay Area youth and help them unlock their full potential. In South San Francisco alone, we have 49 students waiting for a tutor. I asked Leroy what he would say to someone interested in volunteering with Reading Partners and he responded, “Don’t be afraid. Take a chance. It’s only an hour out of your week, at a minimum. It’s probably the most rewarding thing you can do, working with these young kids, seeing how they build their reading skills and move on with their life. I would say give it a try. If you don’t like it, you don’t come back. But I guarantee you, you will like it, and you will come back.”