Tutoring Program at Family Shelter

St. Francis High School has partnered with Next Move to provide tutoring for the kids at the Family Shelter.

On a quiet May afternoon, five teens celebrated a successful collaboration with the Next Move Family Shelter. These St. Francis Catholic High School students established a twice-a-week tutoring program at the shelter to support homeless children. Enjoying pizza and cupcakes, the tutors reflected on the goals and successes of this pilot program.

When asked why she wanted to join the program in February, Avery Hoyt said what rang true for each volunteer: “I like working with kids, and I enjoy tutoring.” Avery, a 15-year-old sophomore, added, “Because the children we’re helping are homeless, they may not have the same opportunities as other kids.” Children who enter the family shelter may be enrolling in new schools, returning from prolonged school absences, and/or carrying lower grades due to the traumas of homelessness. The goals of the tutoring program were to give children a safe space to learn, build skills, raise confidence, and create healthy mentorships.

“Seeing the impact tutoring has on the children here is what keeps me engaged,” said Mallory Marshall, 18, a now-graduate who studies communication and education at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I’m thinking of a first-grade girl who was not able to sit down to focus for long or read at her grade level yet. After several weeks of tutoring, she could focus longer and her reading improved. It shows that putting in the time and effort really does make a difference—that changed her life for the better.”

Because many children at the shelter struggle with reading, the tutors used a variety of techniques to teach literacy skills. Kiarah Hewitt, a 15-year-old junior, shared, “I have seen several children guess bigger words based on the first letter or two. I show them how to slow down and sound the word out.”

Marisa Yamada, a 17-year-old senior who interned with Kaiser Permanente this summer, added, “The first time I read with [a 6-year-old boy], he did not recognize sight words. What I did was read a page to him, and had him repeat the words back to me. As particular words came up again and again throughout the book, he began to recognize them. That technique worked well for him. Now he reads so many more words on his own.”

The tutors say that supporting the children takes energy, creativity, and persistence. The motto here is, ‘Meet the kids where they are.’ Each child has a voice, a set of strengths, and a unique educational experience. Some days, the children are ready to tackle their homework. Other days, they feel frustrated or tired. The tutors discovered that checking in with every child as he or she enters the room fosters trust and a sense of community. Refocus activities like jumping jacks and stretching give the kids much-needed breaks from studying. Other important program aspects include celebrating milestones and enjoying playtime.

“What keeps me coming back is consistency,” Marisa continued. “The kids can learn better and feel better if they get to see the same faces. That gives them a stronger foundation, especially if they’ve changed schools a lot.”

Ivanna Forero Pretto, a 15-year-old junior, said, “What keeps me coming back is the environment that Miss Danielle set up here [in the Children Services room]. I can see the effort and time she puts in to support the kids with events and parties. She gives a lot to the families and it shows.”

What’s more to celebrate? The tutoring program is returning to the family shelter this fall! The tutors started a school supply drive at St. Francis in August to benefit the shelter. New tutors are also joining this growing program, and everyone is excited to begin in September.

Thank you Mallory, Marisa, Ivanna, Kiarah, and Avery for your service and dedication!

If you are a high school student in Sacramento who is interested in tutoring at the Next Move family shelter, please send an email to: dlanphear@nextmovesacramento.org.