Carol Davis is dedicated to helping struggling students turn on the proverbial light switch in their minds.
“We all learn differently,” noted Davis who serves as the chief executive officer of Give Every Child a Chance.
Since July of 2000 Davis has overseen the community-based free tutoring and education enhancement program that last year served 4,109 unduplicated youth with the help of 432 volunteer tutors.
And it’s been a successful undertaking by any measure.
Based on an analysis of test data provided by school districts whose students are involved in the program, 80 percent of the participating students last year showed a marked improvement in at least one subject.
That translates into more attentive students in classrooms, which in turn is leaving fewer students behind as they progress through school.
It is exactly what Antone Raymus — the late home builder and Manteca philanthropist — had in mind when he founded GECAC 18 years ago using $300,000 of his own funds as seed money.
Raymus had grown frustrated with seeing youth end up behind bars and young people trapped in poverty.
He knew from his own experience growing up that some kids needed additional attention beyond what teachers can provide in a classroom. It worked for him during his days as a primary student in a now defunct rural Manteca school. He had a hard time following basic subjects and was falling behind and becoming disconnected with classmates.
Raymus recalled in an interview years later how he felt “stupid” and didn’t want to go to school because he was convinced that he couldn’t learn.
His teacher took the time after school for days on end to work with him. She got the proverbial light to go off in his head and soon he was flourishing. While he wasn’t a straight “A” student, he did well enough that his life’s course changed from what looked like path of simply being a farm worker to one where he not just built homes but communities as well.
“It’s an incredible feeling to see the look in the eyes of a struggling child when they finally grasp something,” Davis said. “It creates a snowball effect.”
The heart of GECAC is the one-on-one mentoring/tutoring that takes place at 48 locations on Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon, Escalon, Weston Ranch, Banta, and Tracy.
Volunteers are carefully matched with students.
“Volunteers don’t have to be proficient in everything,” Davis said. “We take their strengths and match them with kids having problems in the same area such as English or math.”
Volunteers commit to two days a week either on a Monday-Wednesday or a Tuesday-Thursday schedule for an hour each day between 3 and 6 p.m.
Volunteers currently run in ages from 10 to 82 years of age. Davis noted there is no upper limit on volunteering when it comes to age.
“Without the one-on-one tutoring, there would be no GECAC,” Davis noted.
The one-on-one program is supported entirely by fundraisers such as this Saturday’s bowl-a-thon, the annual casino night, and Tip a Fireman. A fourth annual fundraiser is in the works.
The non-profit’s annual budget is $2.3 million. Grants including private and public that help fund additional educational endeavors such as the After School Advantage Program (ASAP) are restricted and can’t be used for the one-on-one tutoring expenses.
Without the one-on-one tutoring and the structure needed to oversee it, GECAC would never have been able to secure any of the grants. That means ASAP would not exist at 14 program sites and 2,707 youth would not be receiving help with their homework as well as educational enrichment after school.
Essentially the $55,539 the community contributed last year to GECAC through the casino night, Tip-a-Fireman and bowl-a-thon last year to help over 400 struggling kids in the one-on-one tutoring leveraged $1.9 million in grants to help more than 3,600 more academically struggling kids from kindergarten through 12th grade through a variety of programs.
The one-on-one along with Reading to the 2nd Power and Homework Assistance Program (HAP) served 988 youth last year with 133 program graduates or students who no longer receive below average grades and are now learning at least at grade level.
The Homework Assistance Program (HAP) has an instructor who helps oversee a site and assists those who need it. After graduating from the one-on-one tutoring, a student can continue receiving assistance through HAP, if they wish.
Other GECAC programs
The free After School Advantage Programs provides a safe, structured and fun after school program. It is open to any student attending the school where the program is located.
There are three components: homework assistance/support, enrichment activities, and recreational/physical activities.
Enrichment activities align with California’s school standards. Activities include arts and crafts, games, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) projects, health education, field trips, guest speakers/instructors, drama productions, and music.
ASAP also has a health education component that stresses wellness, nutrition education, physical activity, mentoring, and healthy snacks.
Other programs include:
Employment Mentoring Program: Students between ages 15 and 21 develop skills and abilities to prepare for future employment and career development while receiving on the job training. Students are referred to any business that completes the required documentation, provides a suitable and safe location, and is willing tom provide a supervisor or mentor. Almost 85 percent of the students complete their job shadowing experience with one in four hired after it is completed.
Technology Outreach Program (TOP): This consists of a mobile bus set up with computer labs that teaches students computer instructor. It travels between various school sites in South San Joaquin County.
Computer Assisted Instructional Training: The summer program conducted in June and July is for students attending fourth through sixth grade in the upcoming school year. They meet with no more than 10 students per instructor and receive computer based instruction in basic reading, math, and language skills.
Summer Drop In: The program is offered Monday though Thursday during the summer. GECAC provides worksheets and educational games. Students come once e a week at pre-selected times although they are encouraged to attend twice a week.
Reading to the 2nd Power: The program is based on the successful Reading Recovery Program. It has been expanded to include the Read Naturally concepts. Books in packs of six are used with children to assist then with comprehension and memory. There are no more than five students in a group for the endeavor conducted at Stella Brockman School.
Homework Assistance Program (HAP): HAP allows students to bring their class assignments and work independently with help from an instructor.
Davis noted one sign of the programs’ success involve former students who have gone on to excel academically who have been hired by GECAC to help as support staff.
A growing number of those students are being hired away by Manteca Unified to fill support positions at various district schools.
“We also have a number of former students who were helped that have come back to help tutor others,” Davis said.