Raise Your Hand tutoring shows continued success


Aug. 18, 2016


Raise Your Hand (RYH), a volunteer tutoring program through United Way of Williamson County (UWWC), shows continued signs of success, according to recent test results.

The program pairs volunteer tutors with students in second through fourth grade at 10 schools in Williamson County. The tutors, who volunteer at least one hour per week, work with teachers to provide students additional guidance and mentoring in reading and math. The premise behind the program is that students who show higher proficiency by the fourth grade do better in school later on and are more likely to graduate high school.

The volunteers’ work seems to be making a difference, according to school testing data from the 2015-2016 school year.

Of the 346 students receiving tutoring during the school year, 88 percent improved in reading and 93 percent improved in math.

“Our greatest reward is being able to reach so many children in Williamson County at no cost to their families,” said Sonya Johnson, Raise Your Hand Williamson program coordinator. “It’s evident through our results that when volunteers and teachers work as partners in a relaxed environment, it boosts reading proficiency among elementary students.”

Eleanor Michon, a Raise Your Hand volunteer for the past three years, sees the improvement first-hand.

“There was one boy,” recalled Michon. “I discovered if I could pick out things he was interested in, then he could pay attention. He improved quite a bit.”

Through her time with the program and through a close collaboration with the teacher she’s paired with, Michon has developed some tactics she uses during her tutoring sessions.

“I’ve learned to read two or three pages with them and then stop and ask questions and talk about what we’ve read,” she said. “That’s when I see it click. They start to remember what they read, and they’ll blurt [the answers] out when I’m halfway through the question.”

She said she also tries to relate what they’re reading to real-life.

“One time we read something about dinosaurs, and I was online and I saw a story about a five-year-old in Texas who discovered a complete dinosaur skeleton,” said Michon. “I printed it out, Xeroxed it and took it to school, and they were all really excited—they couldn’t believe this kid was just five years old. Those things are fun.”

Raise Your Hand gives volunteers the opportunity to really get to know their students and tailor each child’s learning experience to what works best for that child.

“Every child learns in a different way,” said Johnson. “The reasons for a student’s struggle varies from person to person, which is why Raise Your Hand provides enrichment activities to look at subjects on a deeper level and to show students how to apply studying skills to carry to the next grade and onward.”

She said the successes the program has seen do not mean the work is done.

“We will always have students who need additional help,” said Johnson.

In fact, preparations are underway for the next session, set to begin Sept. 19. United Way of Williamson County is looking for additional volunteers to help meet the need that continues to grow as the county’s student population grows.

Johnson stressed that volunteers do not need to have a background in education – teachers will provide the lesson plans and be on hand during the sessions.

Michon said anyone on the fence about volunteer tutoring should give it a chance.

“Just go try it for a month, and you’ll be hooked,” said Michon. “It’s really rewarding…Seeing the kids improving, seeing them enjoy reading—it makes it all worthwhile.”

For more information about Raise Your Hand or to volunteer as a tutor, visit uwwc.org or call 615-771-2312.
About United Way of Williamson County

United Way of Williamson County is committed to creating real change and measurable improvements in the day-to-day lives of thousands of people. Serving the Williamson County community for more than 50 years, United Way of Williamson County works through collaborations with hundreds of committed partners, including governments, schools, corporations, businesses and nonprofits, and thousands of individuals to create positive change in the lives of families and children. When we work together to advance the common good, we LIVE UNITED. To find out more, please visit uwwc.org/ or call the office at 615-771-2312.