Experience Corps provides strategic support for students
Early literacy program helps children become successful confident readers

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When Sal Garcia became principal at Elkhorn Village School in West Sacramento two years ago, he was immediately intrigued with the school’s partnership with United Way’s Experience Corps program.

“Experience Corps very quickly struck me – what a phenomenal way to get kids some additional support,” he said. “I was sold on the program very early on.”

United Way’s Experience Corps brings in volunteer tutors, age 50 and older, to work in local schools to help struggling students become successful, confident readers. Each volunteer undergoes training in the Experience Corps curriculum, tutors two days a week for two to three hours a day, and meets monthly with fellow volunteers and program staff to learn more about supporting literacy, address any questions and share their own experiences.

Elkhorn Village School has 640 students – 65% of which are English language learners and 94% of which are on free or reduced lunch. The Title I school is the only school in its district with a dual immersion program. 

“At our school we say we want to know every child by name and every child by need,” Principal Garcia said. “Experience Corps helps us work in a very strategic way with our students, providing another layer of support.”

Principal Garcia is thrilled that many of the Experience Corps volunteers have been working with students at the school for three school years. 

“They know us and our kids, and we know them,” he said. “I see their passion and how this is a win-win for everyone. We want kids to demonstrate growth, and we want to share those successes with our families, teachers and communities. When we celebrate our kids’ successes, their engagement increases.” 

Observing the Experience Corps groups shows Principal Garcia everything he needs to know about the success of the program.

“The look on the kids’ faces says it all,” he said. “When you see kids smiling and having fun learning, right then and there you know the program is working. I really see Experience Corps volunteers as an extension of our staff. Every school should want this program.”