EDWARDS, Colorado - For students such as David Rodriguez, a little one-on-one attention has been going a long way.
Rodriguez, an eighth-grader at Berry Creek Middle School, had been struggling in school before he started meeting with his tutor a few months ago.
He has spent many afternoons with Joshua Lee, a 28-year-old Avon resident and lift maintenance worker for Beaver Creek, going over reading and writing. Like many students who receive tutoring at the school, Rodriguez is still getting comfortable with speaking English (his family moved from Honduras to Avon three years ago).
Thanks to the tutoring program, Rodriguez has brought his grades up from Fs to Cs, and no longer gets in trouble in class.
"That makes me feel like a really good student," he said.
Success stories are common within the tutoring programs at Berry Creek Middle School. The programs, which focus on "at risk" kids, rely heavily on community volunteers to come in and work with kids one-on-one or in small groups. Lee said he signed up to be a volunteer because he wanted to do something valuable during his days off from working on the mountain.
"It's really rewarding," he said.
The services are in such high demand, organizers of the programs say they need more volunteers to help students on the tutoring waiting list.
"Kids are coming up to me and saying 'I want a tutor,'" reading teacher Kimberly Hetrick said. "I can't accommodate all the kids."
The Youth Foundation runs an after-school tutoring program at Berry Creek, while The Literacy Project brings in tutors during the school day.
"We target the kids that have an academic need, certainly, and a social, emotional need," Hetrick said. "Some of the students need a school parent, if you will."
Most of Berry Creek's student body is considered "at risk," meaning students are struggling academically for a variety of reasons that may include a learning challenge or problems at home, she said.
Many of the students who receive extra help are learning English. More than 80 percent of students at Berry Creek are Hispanic.
Hetrick said the tutoring has been incredibly successful with bringing up students' grades and helping with behavioral problems.
"I think the No. 1 success is the self-esteem for the students," she said. "They start to have a 'can do' attitude. They start to take responsibility. They start to see 'I can be successful.'"
The tutoring programs have drawn all kinds of community volunteers, from high school students to adults. For instance, Vail resident Eileen Miller, 67, wanted to get involved because she missed working with students. She's a former English teacher at a high school in St. Louis, Mo.
"The students here are especially receptive," she said. "I find they really like the help."
Currently, 26 students at Berry Creek Middle School are enrolled in tutoring. More than half are signed up for The Youth Foundation's "Power Hours" program, which provides one-on-one tutoring, small group homework help and activities such as soccer leagues to students at four middle schools and five elementary schools in Eagle County, said Katie Santambrogio, who recruits and trains volunteers for the program.
The Literacy Project offers free tutoring for middle school students across Eagle County. Berry Creek is unique in that the tutors come in during the day, which allows for them to meet with teachers face-to-face and find out how students are progressing, said Sloan Munter, director of educational programs for The Literacy Project.
Although the programs are going strong, they could use more volunteers.
"Right now, just at Berry Creek alone, we could use another five to 10," Santambrogio said. "Volunteers across the board? We could use as many volunteers that come to us."
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.