The Classen School of Advanced Studies valedictorian credits her Whiz Kids mentor, a woman named Dolores, with helping her succeed.
Before fifth grade, I had never even thought about high school, much less college, said Ramirez, who now lives and works in Boston. Talking to Dolores about what it took to get where she was made me see some of the steps necessary to achieve the same.
Ramirez was reading above grade level at the time, but her teacher thought the girl would benefit from having a mentor in her life.
And the teacher was right. Having a tutor there to talk to me was crucial, said Ramirez. My parents did not go to college, and aside from my teacher, I did not know any truly successful adults. My tutor was one person who was consistently in my life during that very important year.
Whiz Kids is a nonprofit tutoring program that provides literacy assistance to children in first through fifth grade. For a school to qualify for the programs assistance, 87 percent of its student population must be on free and reduced lunches. That applies to all but three schools in the Oklahoma City Public Schools district.
Teacher liaisons identify children who need assistance. Whiz Kids then refers the student to an area church where he or she is paired with a tutor, ideally from first through fifth grades.
Our tutors take the children home after a session, said Bea Jai Webb, Whiz Kids executive director. We want them involved in the lives of the kids, and taking them home gives the tutors a chance to bond with the childrens families.
The group currently works with 26 churches to help 750 students. However, a shortage of tutors exists.
Right now, there are more than 19,000 kids who could use a Whiz Kids tutor, Webb said.
Tutors need to be 18 or older, pass a background check, have their own transportation and willing to commit to two and a half hours per week.
For more information, call 602- 2815 or visit whizkidsok.org.