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Fundraiser Today for Valuable Student-Tutoring Program

The WriterCoach Connection — through which volunteers help students with writing at El Cerrito High and other schools in Albany, Berkeley and Oakland — will hold its biggest fundraiser of the year today, the Read-and-Write-a-thon.

"It's like a miracle."

Those are the words of a middle-school teacher talking about a local non-profit that continues to produce what comes close to being miraculous.

The 10-year-old has developed a quick and fun way to transform untrained volunteers into effective writing coaches for our struggling schools. The coaches meet one-on-one with students.

The program just expanded to El Cerrito High School this past fall, thanks to the efforts of caring adults and parents like . But like most grassroots non-profits, it struggles financially, and its successes are in continual danger of  being eroded by a shortage of funds.

The WriterCoach Connection is holding its biggest fundraiser of the year today, May 21. It's the "Read-and-Write-a-thon," at the Willard Middle School library in Berkeley. Students and coaches will take turns reading aloud from the favorite works — poetry, prose, drama, and fiction — starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m.

Those who wish to donate can find instructions on the group's website.

This year, 430 community volunteers have been working with more than 1,500 students at El Cerrito High and eight other schools in Albany, Berkeley and Oakland, according to the organization's executive director, Bob Menzimer.

"We’re fighting to stay at our nine school sites for next fall," Menzimer said. "State education funding (or the lack of it) has eviscerated school budgets, and many sites, including both of our Oakland schools, can no longer support programs like WCC.

"Still, we’ve kept growing over the years, slowly but surely. We hope to not only stay in Oakland next year, but expand to a third Oakland school."

But the WriterCoach Connection's plans depend on donors, he said, noting that individual donations have grown to almost 20 percent of the organization's operating budget.

"This program works," Menzimer said. "At Media Academy in Oakland, smack in the middle of the vibrant, highly diverse, and challenging Fruitvale District, writing proficiency among students we coached rose from 13.5 percent in fall to 45.9 percent in spring. The California High School Exit Exam pass rate among these sophomores was 74% on the first try, unprecedented at the school and reminding the astonished principal of a suburban-school figure."

Menzimer said gifts large or small count. A donation of $10 means pencils for a year’s worth of coaching for a student, and a gift of $180 can provide coaching for a student for a whole year, he said.

"Any amount," he said, "will help generate comments like these, from our middle school students this year: 'I used to not like writing, but now I like it because he helps me and I don't get low grades anymore.' "

Todd Groves May 21, 2011 at 04:36 PM
El Cerrito, here is your opportunity to fundamentally improve outcomes for our public school students. WriterCoach Connection is an elegant solution to the complex issues we face. Our kids are bright and capable, but need the support of our whole community to succeed. Instead of our usual "hey you kids, get off my lawn!," approach, we now can show our students that the community welcomes and supports them. To families in our local elementaries, investing now will assure a robust program for your kids in the immediate future. I especially appeal to those who have chosen alternatives to our local public schools. Your absence does materially alter outcomes, and WCC assures the health of your community as a whole. WriterCoach is part of the strategic vision for meeting needs of deserving youth. New schools, new ideas and new perspective will change the trajectory. If you've ever pondered our community's problems and thought "why doesn't somebody do something," well, you are somebody and this is something! Either donate,volunteer or do both.
Todd Groves May 22, 2011 at 10:42 PM
Congratulationsto CAFL on a very successful Read-and-Write-a-thon yesterday. El Cerrito, you can still support the effort as the campaign continues. Donate, volunteer or do both. We need you.
kim hartley May 24, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I really enjoyed your article. I am an educational consultant in the area and love hearing about the local news. If you are in need of an opinion related to education or tutoring, I am happy to be a resource for you. I have written pieces on Parents as Advocates and Study and Summer Enrichment Tips as well. Best, Kim Hartley Director www.buddysystem.com
Valerie Snider May 25, 2011 at 07:20 PM
Ms. Hartley - It looks like you're using Patch for free advertising. Unless you're providing your consulting services for free, I think you should pay for a display ad on Patch.

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