Volunteer Tutoring: Math and Mentorship 

Melani Espinoza recalls being in the library with some other kids in her class when she first realized she needed a tutor in math. “I remember I was doing math homework in the library,” says first year Pescadero High School student, Espinoza, “And I thought that I might get behind in class.” Fellow student, Laura Gomez, says she first approached Puente’s education director, Lizeth Hernandez, at the beginning of the year. “I had been working at Puente, so I knew they could help me find a tutor,” remarks Gomez.

Both young women had been a part of the Puente community for a while. Melani was originally a student in the building in which Puente now resides when it was a preschool. Just being at Puente conjures good, welcoming memories for her. Laura got seriously involved with Puente last summer when she participated in the youth summer program. Since then, she and her twin sister, Luz, are regular fixtures at Puente–in the evenings they are watching the children of the adults attending ESL classes at Puente and at nearly every Puente event they are there early to help set up and stay late to help with cleanup.

Though Puente does not have a formal tutoring program, our education program team works hard to identify needs and match volunteers with students when possible. Adult Education Coordinator, Charlea Binford, spearheads a lot of this effort because she is often at Pescadero Middle and High School volunteer coaching various sports teams. “I was impressed that Melani and Laura approached Puente about needing a tutor,” reports Binford. “The fact that they were so proactive motivated me to keep my ears and eyes peeled for someone.”

Thankfully support soon came their way when La Honda resident, Cerelle Centeno, came to talk with Binford one day this past summer at the Pescadero Grown! Farmer’s Market. Centeno was new to the area and looking for volunteer opportunities. She notes,”I was terrible at math as a kid, so when Charlea mentioned she had two girls who needed a math tutor, at first I was nervous.” But Centeno accepted the opportunity. “I figured I could at least try.”

Since that day at the market, Centeno, Espinoza and Gomez have been meeting every Tuesday and Thursday after school for one hour sessions. They do homework for the following day, or correct past homework and quizzes or study for an upcoming test.

The young women report that the experience has been a positive one for them. Gomez says that she started the class with a D but has gotten her grade up to a B.

And Centeno has experienced some benefits as well. “It’s been a thrill to get to know Melani and Laura,” she states. “We’ve covered the principles of mathematics, yes, but what we work on is more about self-discipline and self-confidence. I feel like equal parts tutor and mentor.”

A myriad of opportunities present themselves for volunteers at Puente. But the education-related volunteer positions are more structured in that they call for a more scheduled, recurring commitment.

“We recognize that tutoring at Puente poses a unique set of factors to the volunteers and students alike,” notes Puente Education Director Lizeth Hernandez. “Volunteers need comfort in the subject matter and a comfort level with young people, and the students need to be open to meeting and trusting someone new in a relatively short period of time.”

It is therefore no wonder that the relationship formed can be a strong one. “I quickly began looking forward to my Tuesdays and Thursdays with the girls,” Centeno notes. “And if I get any more sappy than that, I’m pretty sure the girls will read this article and say, ‘Ay, Cerelle!’”

Puente is looking for tutors in various subjects for the new semester. Want to help a high school student learn and, in the process, gain a new friend? Contact Charlea Binford at cbinford@mypuente.org to get paired up with a student TODAY.

Feel more comfortable tutoring adults? We also have opportunities for bilingual tutors to help adults with their citizenship tests. Contact us today to learn more.

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