“As a newcomer to the Mission, I want to know my neighbors and be part of a community,” states Sam Cooper, a friendly, engaged volunteer at Mission Promise Neighborhood’s Cesar Chavez Elementary School. That’s where Sam takes time out of his busy schedule twice a week to read for an hour to kindergartner Jasline – opening a new door to success for the youngster’s life.
Sam grew up in a suburb of Buffalo, New York. The adventurous young man headed overseas after college to Taiwan’s capital of Taipei, where he taught English to U.S.-bound high school students. Last October, Sam landed in the Mission. Joining Sam was his girlfriend and a roommate, the trio sharing a flat near the 24th Street BART station, with a vibrant neighborhood to explore right outside the door.
Sam immediately felt at home, but longed to feel more connected to his adopted community.
That’s when an Internet search found the answer to making that a reality.
“I had recently scaled down my job to have more time for entrepreneurial and political pursuits. I also wanted get to know my new community. While I was figuring out how to get involved, I watched an interview with Killer Mike, the rapper and activist, who made a compelling case for one-on-one tutoring and mentoring. When I found the Mission Promise Neighborhood website, it looked like a great organization. They made it very easy to get involved,” explains Sam.
That involvement comes via Reading Partners, a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming struggling young students into confident readers. The organization creates an on-site reading center at each school they serve. In Cesar Chavez Elementary’s case, that setup is in Room 24. This classroom now teems with engaging books for kindergarteners to 4th-graders, creating an idyllic atmosphere for one-on-one learning opportunities at an accelerated pace to get back on grade level in reading.
Sam’s is the quintessential volunteer experience. He gets to spend time with a wonderful kid and shares in her excitement at learning. Working with an elementary student is new for Sam – with an entirely different set of challenges from his professional life as a self-employed private instructor for high schoolers – but he believes the additional perspective has made him a better teacher for his older students as well.
The great news is that Jasline has made significant progress reading and writing new letters, recognizing common words, understanding syllables and how to count the syllables in a word, learning how to rhyme and sounding out words. In addition to these concrete skills, Jasline now exhibits enthusiasm for reading, more often requesting to read out loud instead of Sam taking the active role.
That’s true impact via one community member’s volunteerism.
“I am honored to give back to the Mission community. It’s the right thing to do,” sums up Sam of his volunteer experience for Mission Promise Neighborhood.
A little or a lot. Give your time. Gain a community.
Volunteer today with the Mission Promise Neighborhood!
About Mission Promise Neighborhood
The Mission Promise Neighborhood is a citywide community partnership that was created to support kids and families living, working and attending school in the Mission District. It brings together schools, colleges, community organizations and community leaders to help kids graduate and families achieve financial stability.