• WHAT’S NEEDED: Volunteer tutors
• WHEN: Twice a week, hour at a time
• MORE INFO: Call Give Every Child a Chance at 823-7003
Nathan Malsack was having problems putting his words into sentences.
It wouldn’t be uncommon for the shy first-grader to spend hours working his way through spelling worksheets, and his introverted nature only made things more difficult.
But his mother knew where to turn.
When her daughter – now 18 – struggled with her studies in fourth grade she turned to a local non-profit tutoring program recommended to her by a friend. At the time Kerri Malsack didn’t know much about Give Every Child a Chance other than it was supposed to help her daughter through her rough patch. She was soon a believer as grades started to go up.
Things started improving for Nathan not long after enrolling as well. Just a month into the school year he started getting one-on-one lessons in language arts and began to break out of his shell – absorbing the information that was being presented while at the same time developing a social profile among his classmates. The shy young boy that walked through the doors of Walter Woodward Elementary after school hours in October had blossomed into somebody different.
“You see the changes in the grades but then there are the things like the improved social skills that you don’t expect,” Kerri Malsack said. “They’re very patient, and the one-on-one part really helps a lot. I’d definitely recommend this to anybody that has a struggling student.”
And on Friday it was all about Nathan.
As part of a GECAC graduating class of 50, the upbeat young man beamed ear-to-ear as he sauntered up the aisle at Manteca Bowl and Family Fun Center while his parents looked on. He grabbed his certificate and his McDonalds gift card and dashing back to his seat.
While his mother proudly looked over his certificate, it was his tutor Woodward Site Coordinator Crista Meckler that had the beaming smile.
For months she worked with Nathan to strengthen his grasp of sentence structure, spelling and word formation and was thrilled to see him finally graduate from the program. Getting to see the reaction from his parents, Meckler said, was just icing on top of an already sweet cake.
“The reward in and of itself is amazing – it makes me so happy to see that he do all of the things that he was struggling with by himself today,” Meckler said. “That’s what this is all about. Personally I’ve always been good with helping kids and working with them so doing this with Nathan was something I looked forward to.
“Seeing them move on brings a good feeling.”
GECAC Program Director Jamie Dadasovich – who spends more of her time on the administrative side – says that she loves graduations like the one held Friday afternoon because it shows that the program is operating the way that it’s supposed to.
It’s one thing, she says, to do periodic site inspections, but having 50 students in a room with their tutors and their parents carries a whole lot more weight.
“This is definitely an affirmation to what the volunteer tutors are doing with the kids,” Dadasovich said. “A lot of them are students themselves – either high school or college students – so they’re out here on their own time which they don’t have much of. To see them do a job where we get a response like this is just amazing.”