City's Volunteer Mentorship Program Expands to Include Firefighters

As students in the Austin Independent School District return to class, dedicated citizens across Austin are preparing to support these students through the City of Austin’s Mentor and Tutor Program. For years, the City of Austin has encouraged its employees to actively participate in education initiatives, even allowing time off during the workday for staff members to visit campuses. Each year, more than 360 City volunteers enter classrooms as mentors and tutors. 

Created by a City Council resolution in 2002, the City’s Mentor and Tutor Program serves as a shining example of the good work that can be accomplished when altruistic ideals are paired with creative solutions. For example, during the 2011–12, school year, volunteers logged more than 7,550 hours, an in-kind contribution of approximately $271,000 from the City to AISD.

These voluntary time contributions allow AISD to meet its strategic goals and focus on campus initiatives, making real change in Austin public schools. For the coming academic year, City employees who volunteer as mentors and tutors can participate with one of six organizations: Austin Partners in Education, Communities In Schools, HOSTS at Metz Elementary, Junior Achievement, The Seedling Foundation, and Victory Tutorial.

Taking it a step further

For the 2012–13 academic year, the City strengthened its commitment and will launch an expansion of the program, the Austin Firefighter Mentor Program. Historically, this population of employees has been unable to participate on school campuses within their workday because of scheduling difficulties, but in fall 2010, the Austin Fire Department (AFD) approached city volunteers about working directly with AISD to devise a plan to engage firefighters as mentors.

This collaboration led to the creation of a program that will allow firefighters to visit elementary school campuses near their assigned fire station during their shift and conduct group mentoring activities. Program structure, activities, and schedules will be created on a campus-by-campus basis.

Recent research highlights the importance of such community involvement for all parties. The district's students benefit from additional adults in the classroom who care about education, employee volunteers gain a better sense of issues affecting children in the Austin area, and these same employees bring back new skills to the workplace that in turn benefit the City of Austin as a whole. As another year kicks off, community members are encouraged to follow the City’s lead and join these employees on AISD campuses. Together, we can make achievement in Austin schools a community effort.

More on Partnering Organizations

AISD provides the City of Austin with a list of volunteer organizations with which City employees can participate through the City’s Mentor and Tutor Program. 

Austin Partners in Education
Also known as APIE, this organization was created as an independent 501(c)(3) organization through a partnership with AISD and the Austin Chamber of Commerce.  They operate classroom coaching using small-group tutoring in math, reading, and college readiness with a focus on Title I schools and students from under-resourced communities. Additionally they manage the placement of mentors who meet with one student weekly for lunch to become positive adult role models and encourage them to strive for academic success.

Communities In Schools
A nation-wide program, Communities In Schools (CIS) provides wrap-around services to students in 31 schools in AISD. While their service model includes providing a wide variety of resources that extend outside the scope of mentoring and tutoring, the City has partnered with them strictly to provide volunteers into their one-on-one tutoring and mentoring programs. Tutoring opportunities are offered in a variety of subjects based on individual student needs. Both mentoring and tutoring occur on campus during the school day.

HOSTS at Metz Elementary
This one-on-one literacy-tutoring program, Helping One Student To Succeed, operates in both English and Spanish and benefits nearly half the student population at Metz Elementary. Volunteers visit the school once a week for 30 minutes and spend their time playing reading games and engaging in other activities with a focus on increasing students’ reading fluency and comprehension. Metz Elementary website

Junior Achievement
Junior Achievement volunteers enter classrooms to provide students with hands-on experiential learning about key concepts of work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy with the goal of preparing them to succeed in a global economy. Volunteer teachers present to the entire class on topics such as city planning, business and bank operations, ethical decision-making, and how to manage a personal budget.

Seedling Foundation
Students who have one or both parents involved in the criminal justice system, either in jail, prison, or on probation or parole, are paired with one caring adult mentor who meets with them weekly during lunch. These mentors are consistent, caring, positive role models for the students they serve, and many mentors stay with their students across multiple years.

Victory Tutorial
Victory, which stands for Volunteers In Communities Tutoring Our Responsible Youth, matches students with one tutor who helps with homework assignments and does other activities that build skills for academic success. Volunteers tutor in a variety of subjects and grade levels at one of six Austin Public Libraries after school. Victory Tutorial Program website