Monday, February 11, 2013

Featured With Love - Donna Becht, Healthy Cities Tutoring

Featured With Love is a series that I began to just plain share the love. I am constantly amazed by my friends and family, especially the ones that have started their own companies and charities. I get bogged down with just the idea of doing my own thing let alone where and how to start and then how to be successful at it. I couldn't help but think about how awesome these businesses and charities are and how it would be fun to highlight them here on my blog. Not that I have a ton of readers, but I'm sure that when you run your own gig, you take any and all PR that you can get. No one has paid me to write about these people. I know that I like to buy from or donate to companies and charities that have come recommended by people I know and trust. The people that I highlight here are all loyal, trustworthy, caring, and dedicated individuals. I hope you will join me in reading and learning about what they do. I am not asking you to purchase or donate anything from them. I am simply spreading the word. Please read along and leave an encouraging comment since they are their own bosses and thus don't always get feedback and encouragement. An easy way to spread the love (and if nothing else, it will help out your karma).

Donna Becht is not only one of my mom's good friends and an amazing mother and wife. She is the influential leader of the San Carlos Healthy Cities Tutoring Program. Healthy Cities is an extremely successful nonprofit organization pairing tutors of all ages with San Carlos, CA students (elementary and middle school ages). I have personal experience with Healthy Cities, as I was a tutor throughout all four years of high school. I had the privilege to tutor the same student for all four years and in doing so, was able to witness amazing growth academically and socially in my student. My mother has been a tutor with Healthy Cities since it's inception and has been fortunate to tutor many students of whom continued with her for one to four years, until they no longer needed additional support. I'm pretty sure that even my brother tutored for a year (which is amazing since he was always more into making money with his spare time back then). I have known many others who have either been a tutor or have been tutored and mentored. Never have I heard a negative statement from anyone. To learn more about this amazing inspiration, I have interviewed Donna to give us a little more insight into the organization. If you live in or near San Carlos and have only a half an hour a week to spare (I believe that's about all the time it takes), please think of partnering with Healthy Cities. I often think that the tutors get more out of it than the students!

Where did you come up with the idea for your organization?

Healthy Cities Tutoring began in 1996 as a dream of school and community leaders seeking to support children and families in San Carlos. I was hired in December 1996 to initiate a volunteer based tutor-mentor program to support struggling students in kindergarten through third grade. This intergenerational program was piloted at one elementary school in early 1997 and quickly expanded to provide one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to students at four elementary and two middle schools for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

What steps did you take to make it a reality? 

Healthy Cities Tutoring was supported by the City of San Carlos for the first thirteen years. Due to increased budget demands placed on both the City of San Carlos and the San Carlos School District, the program lost most of its funding in June, 2011. The program has strong roots in San Carlos and many supporters and partners who did not want to see the program die with the loss of funding. Working with a committed group of volunteers, educators, business leaders and elected officials, the program was reestablished as a 501(c)(3) in September 2011. The nonprofit is now in place with a committed Board of Directors and a fund raising plan working towards ensuring sustainability. Healthy Cities Tutoring is committed to ensuring every child has the support necessary to achieve to their full potential; we know that their achievement creates a healthy, safe and thriving community. 

What does your organization do?

Healthy Cities Tutoring matches volunteers from the community with students that need assistance to find success in school. During the 2011-12, 150 volunteers provided help to 159 students. In the sixteen years of the program’s existence, over 1300 students have benefited from the one-on-one help provided by Healthy Cities Tutoring volunteers.

Volunteers are recruited from all walks of life and truly bring the community into the schools. They meet with their students once or twice a week for one hour. Scheduling is variable depending on the needs of the students, requests of the parents and the schedule of the volunteers. Healthy Cities is often the first intervention requested by teachers for children that are struggling. This is a typical referral: Sylvie is reading at a beginning first grade level.  She struggles in all academic areas. She has such a desire to learn and always gives her best effort. She asks lots of questions and doesn’t give up even when it is hard. She could definitely benefit from some one-on-one support. I think she has great potential!”

What is your dream/vision for the future of your organization?

Healthy Cities Tutoring is an amazing partnership between our schools, our city and our residents that helps the youngest members of our community. We currently are serving only 1/3 of the children that are below grade level in our school district. We hope to reach more of those students that are in need of assistance. We also hope to take this model to other communities and further our mission to help more kids that struggle to find success in school. We plan to continue this work for many years to come.

What makes you passionate about your job?

Truly, I know that every day we are making a difference. I have the great privilege of interacting with the hundreds of wonderful people that step forward to volunteer and help a child. I work with amazing teachers who are passionate about kids. I hear from parents how much the tutoring has helped their child and how they appreciate our help. And, I see a child’s face light up when their tutor comes to pick them up from class. It is easy to be passionate about this work.

How can readers get involved or hire you?

Please go to our website at: and view the video about our organization. Consider being a tutor or donating to our program. Just click on Volunteer or Donate! Help us spread the word by “Liking” us on Facebook or following us on Twitter @HCtutoring

If you like and believe in giving back and helping children then you will like this company/organization.

What valuable lessons have you learned since the beginning?

Never give up! Back in 1997, no one dreamed Healthy Cities would find the success that it did. Despite the ups and downs of funding and ownership, Healthy Cities Tutoring has remained true to its belief that a community will step forward and support the children and families that struggle.

What do you do for fun/relaxation outside of your job?

Outside of the job, I like to read, walk and spend time with friends and family.

What is your favorite thing about GrowingSoundRoots?

I enjoy reading about Ali being a mom and all of the changes and experiences in her life, be they large or small. I think she is a great writer!

A Healthy Cities Tutor and Student

Healthy Cities Tutoring in action
***Isn't Donna inspiring!? She does so much for Healthy Cities and it has blossomed thanks to her leadership. Have you been involved with Healthy Cities? Tell us about it in the comments section! How many of you wish that there had been a Healthy Cities around when you were a kid?

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