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November 3, 1997

UCSC student literacy tutors thrilled to work in local schools

Literacy tutor Cherry Corales

By Jennifer McNulty

After his first day as a literacy tutor for second graders at Watsonville's Starlight Elementary School, Octavio Murillo was buoyant.

"It was awesome," he exclaimed. "I had so much fun with the kids. I love it."

Murillo is one of 21 UCSC students who are participating in the national "America Reads" Challenge program by providing literacy tutoring in four local elementary schools this year. The program is a grassroots initiative begun by President Clinton that is designed to ensure that every American child can read well and independently by the end of third grade.

The students are working 10 hours per week with K-3 students at two schools in Santa Cruz and two schools in Watsonville. They are receiving rigorous training this fall in an Education Department course developed specifically to provide them with strategies to help students who are struggling with reading and writing.

Erika Garcia said her site supervisor at Alianza Elementary School is well-organized and made her feel welcome. The UCSC students discussed their first tutoring experiences during a recent class session at Kresge, sharing tips and brainstorming together about how to arrange logistics like transportation.

The program is a partnership among the Education Department, Student Affairs, which is contributing 75 percent of the money for student work-study wages, and the local schools, which are providing materials, training, and 25 percent matching funds for the tutors. After completing 60 hours of unpaid volunteer time in the classroom, the tutors will earn $8/hour for the balance of the 220 hours they will spend tutoring children. Esperanza Nee, director of the Financial Aid Office, is overseeing financial aid issues.

This program is an example of the innovative approaches taken by Trish Stoddart, chair of the Education Department, to attract a more diverse teaching pool. A $20,000 grant from the California Reading and Literature Project supported the UCSC course development, pays a stipend to site supervisors at each school, and helps cover transportation costs for the student tutors. The Monterey Bay Educational Consortium, under the leadership of Carrol Moran, is helping coordinate the program. Codirectors of the grant are Moran and instructor Susana Dutro; coprincipal investigators are Lucinda Pease-Alvarez, associate professor of education, Ellen Moir, supervisor of education, and Moran.

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