The Riverside Education Center, a K-12 tutoring and enrichment service assisting students from Grand Junction as well as Palisade, needs help. More specifically, they need volunteers. After the program reached capacity at Riverside, Colorado Mesa University provided space in Escalante hall.

Before they acquired the space, the program was forced to cap enrollment at the elementary and middle school levels.

More space means more students will receive the help they need, but it also creates an issue of how many people they have as volunteers compared to how many they need.

“We’re looking to expand into Orchard Mesa […] so that will definitely be another place that will have a need for help. We’re due to open there later this school year if everything goes right,” Program Coordinator Leslie Estrava said.

With the program growing faster than ever before, Riverside Tutoring is flourishing.

“We used to have our high school program at 20 students, this year we’re up to 30 students and hoping to get it to 50,” Estrava said.

However, with the program increasing its reach so quickly its need for volunteers is having trouble keeping up.

“Elementary is [where] you’re working with two students at most […] a ratio of one-to-one or two-to-one. Middle school and high school is more of a group setting,” Estrava said. Estrava also mentioned that the elementary level has the most students, so a larger portion of volunteers will be placed at that level.

In response to higher grades having a more complex grouping system, Etrava said, “If there’s a day we notice they all have history homework, we’ll pair them up and place them with that [tutor] so they’ll be by subject.”

This gives the students a chance to work independently and then have the resources to ask any questions they have.

The process to become involved with the program is designed to be simple, “…we don’t require any previous experience or anything. If anyone is interested what we have them do is fill out an application, we provide the training, which is an hour long, usually Fridays at 4 p.m.,” Estrava said.

There is a variety of people involved with the program beyond CMU students: retired teachers, high school students and various other individuals from the community.

At the elementary level volunteers help with a variety of subjects as well as basic skills: reading, writing, etc. The middle school and high school programs have specialized volunteers who assist with a single subject like math or science.

When asked why CMU students should join the program, Estrava said, “I think it’s a great way for one to step outside the campus, and become involved in the community. I think giving back is always a great way to make connections, meet people…”

“[We try to] pair them with the same kid over and over, so the kids look forward to having that connection. They look up to them, so they’re serving in a way as a role model, which is also, I think, really fulfilling, and at the same time you’re doing something that’s impacting a kid,” Estrava said.

The program goes beyond helping Grand Junction’s youth with their homework. Riverside has created a community outreach that it hopes is positively affecting kids of all ages. More volunteers will help it continue to pursue that goal and grow its reach. For more information about volunteering, call 970-462-2901.

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