The Sights and Sounds of Star Learning Center

My work day starts at 10 a.m. But my office really comes alive after 3 p.m. when the buzz of students and volunteers fill the nooksUploaded image: /uploads/staff_images/1429705366_deena_headshot%20-%20resized%20for%20blog.jpg of our space, eager to begin. As the director of the Star Learning Center at Goddard Riverside, I have a front seat view to what blooms between tutors and students, and even after 10 years, I’m inspired by it daily. Our tutors are all volunteers; they come to us as high school and college students, career professionals, and some are even retirees. No matter what their stage in life, they share the common thread of compassion and commitment to helping students thrive and succeed.

Our volunteers are special. Our recruitment and advertising efforts are modest. Yet, we’re never short of top notch people who come and spend hours, week after week, with young people who need the support and encouragement, but whose families can’t afford high-cost programs. About 300 volunteers tutor at Star each year. With an average of two hours per week during the school year, each volunteer logs about 60 hours of service. Some volunteers even stay on for the summer program and give more than 75 hours of their time. With some tutors taking on two kids each week, and others coming in extra days to work with kids whose tutors are absent, the incredible commitment of these individuals translates into over 14,000 hours of volunteering!

In the beginning, the tutors are often as nervous as the young people; they want to see success happen as much as the students and their parents do. Yet, through the course of a school year, the bond and trust is strengthened by more than improved test scores and report cards. The pairs experience reciprocal learning and as I’ve heard from one testimonial after another, it is an enriching exchange for both sides. It truly demonstrates the power of community in a way that really matters.

I’m moved by the sights and sounds of Star and consider myself lucky to be a part of this brilliant work that transforms lives, one child at a time.

 – Deena Hellman
Director, Star Learning Center