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Valley of the Sun United Way’s online tutoring program ‘Vello’ expands nationwide


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  • Tom Evans/Valley of the Sun United Way

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There is a growing, national movement around literacy and community involvement in the classroom. Reading is the foundation for a child’s educational success, and students who struggle with reading in elementary school run a higher risk of not succeeding later in life. Many people in our community want to help children learn, but are constrained by their busy work schedules and other obligations.

Recently, Valley of the Sun United Way developed an innovative new online tutoring program called Vello, which matches caring adult volunteers with students who can benefit from additional one-on-one reading guidance, no matter where the volunteer may be. Vello connects the volunteer directly to the classroom in a safe online environment.

An employee of a local company that wants to volunteer to help a child learn to read can connect to a simple ‘conference-style’ Internet link, and is connected to a digital library where students will be reading.  

Simultaneously, a second-grader in his classroom walks over to a computer kiosk, puts on a headset, and logs into his custom e-library where that volunteer is ready to be a guided reading partner.  Through shared screen and simple audio connection, Vello comes to life during the school day.

In Fall 2016 Vello was launched locally. It underwent beta testing at two schools in Phoenix and students were matched with corporate volunteers from companies including University of Phoenix, Wells Fargo, US Bank, KPMG, Vanguard, Deloitte, and AAA.

Soon after Vello launched through United Ways across the United States starting in Winter 2017 in Los Angeles; Brownsville, Texas; Boston; Cincinnati; the Quad Cities in Iowa and Illinois; with the goal of increasing access for students to tutoring during a critical time in their learning and development, and they have succeeded.

“My kids are loving interacting with their reading guide online,” said L. Gonzalez, a teacher in Brownsville, Texas.  
“They really look forward to getting on the computer and answering their questions.”

Each Vello classroom has a team of approximately 12 volunteers who are tasked with helping students from First through Third grades by guiding them through a curriculum approved by the Raz-Plus program.

The volunteers simply need Internet access to connect to their assigned student, and participating classrooms are provided with a custom built computer kiosk that holds a digital library tailored for each child.

Five to six students are strategically selected by their teacher to receive ongoing tutoring twice a week through Vello.  The leveled reading system is provided in partnership with Learning A-Z on their Raz-Plus platform.

Now that Vello is up and running, and proving to be highly successful, the program needs sponsorship/fundraising, and tutor teams to volunteer in classrooms in order to continue its path to success both locally and nationally. To learn more, go here.

Background

Since 1925, Valley of the Sun United Way has been uniting diverse partners and bringing together donors, business supporters, nonprofits, government and faith-based communities to build a stronger Valley for us all.

To accomplish this, United Way is keenly focused on achieving key Community Objectives, including ensuring children and youth succeed, ending hunger and homelessness, and increasing the financial stability of families.

United Way is the largest nonprofit investor in health and human service programs in the Valley with the support of nearly 90,000 individual donors, 500 business supporters, and a wide array of volunteers and partners. For more information, visit our website.