Improving lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities

You Can Help a Child Succeed! United Way Partnership Launches Drive for 400 Volunteers.

United Way of Mid Coast Maine and partner organizations are launching an effort to recruit 400 new readers, tutors and mentors for children and youth in the Mid Coast area by the end of 2013.

“Our Mid Coast youth need our time,” said Barbara Reinertsen, Executive Director of United Way of Mid Coast Maine. “When adults read to children, or become a tutor or mentor, they can have a very powerful impact on young people’s success in school and in life. We’re looking for people to take up the challenge and become one of 400 new volunteers for Mid Coast youth!”

The Volunteer Reader, Tutor, Mentor Initiative partnership includes Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bath/Brunswick, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Midcoast Maine, Girl Scouts of Maine, the McKeen Center for the Common Good at Bowdoin College, Success By 6 Volunteer Reader Network, and Youth Promise, as well as United Way. “We’re excited to be working with these active partners, who offer such great volunteer opportunities for adults who care about kids,” said Margaret Wilson, chair of the United Way Volunteer Engagement Advisory Committee. “Volunteering your time to support kids speaks volumes to them. What could be better than bringing your enthusiasm for life and learning to let kids know they’re important?”

The Mid Coast community goal of 400 volunteers is part of a national United Way drive to recruit one million readers, tutors, and mentors to help students succeed. These volunteers do not need special skills, but simply provide extra support to children and youth struggling in and out of school. This has a powerful effect in helping young people achieve academic success, develop higher aspirations and greater confidence, and become productive adults who give back to the community. Readers, tutors, and mentors set children up for success.

Mentors provide emotional support that enhances a child’s self-esteem and nurtures self-confidence. Lindsay MacDonald, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Bath/Brunswick, says they have a need for volunteers, especially men. They have a list of children waiting for the right match, over half of whom are boys. “It can be as simple as sharing the types of activities you already like to do,” said MacDonald. “Playing games or sports, visiting the library or museums, going to the beach, or cooking a meal together are just some examples of activities our Bigs and Littles enjoy. Spending time for just a few hours a month with a child can start something amazing and have life-changing impacts for the child including higher self-esteem and developing new interests and future goals.”

Girls are placed on a waiting list to be assigned to a Girl Scout troop, as Girl Scouts of Maine seeks to find and train volunteers to serve as troop leaders. “We do everything possible to engage girls in activities while they are waiting for placement,” said Suzanne Hand, Volunteer Development Director of Girl Scouts of Maine. “Short term opportunities like series programming and events represent options for adults to become involved. It's easy and fun because we can tailor the opportunities to fit the volunteer's calendar, skills, and interests.”

Tutors spend time with a student or group of students to help master skills they are lacking or to provide enrichment that may not be possible in the traditional classroom setting. Tutoring can provide students with the attention and support that will help them succeed in school, while also allowing the tutor to gain teaching skills and a greater insight into the challenges facing students on a daily basis.

“Though I believe all teachers hope to provide individual assistance for each of their students, large classrooms and varied student needs make it difficult to fully address each student's unique talents and challenges,” said Katie Kinkel, a senior at Bowdoin College and a tutor with the America Reads and Counts program. “A few hours of additional tutoring either within a classroom or outside of school each week can enormously affect an individual student's progress.”

Readers give a tremendous gift to children. Children’s author and literacy expert Mem Fox said, “Children need to hear 1,000 stories before they can begin to learn to read.” Closer to home, a kindergarten teacher in the Mid Coast Maine region wrote, “Literacy—being read to at ALL ages is the single most important factor that affects school readiness.”

Reading is fundamental to learning and school success. Studies show that if a child hasn’t mastered reading by the fourth grade, it becomes harder for them to learn new things and to keep up with school work. They’re in danger of dropping out of school. Reading also sparks children’s imaginations and can give them lifelong pleasure and enrichment.

“You can help a child succeed,” said Angie Buxton, Volunteer Initiative Coordinator at United Way. “Children need help reaching their full potential and you have it in your power to nurture that potential. Opportunities to read, tutor or mentor a child are plentiful. You can find an opportunity to fit your abilities, time and interests. Join the 400 club and change a life – start today!”

Call Angie Buxton at United Way, at 443-9752, or go to United Way’s website, www.uwmcm.org, for more information about our Mid Coast Volunteer Reader, Tutor, Mentor Initiative.

This project is supported in part by a Volunteer Generation Fund grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service and the Maine Commission for Community Service.