Oasis Tutor with Northwest Student

A former Oasis tutor and student pre-pandemic at Northwest School District

The Oasis Institute wants to expand its Intergenerational Tutoring Program in Jefferson County and is seeking more volunteers to help students in kindergarten through third grade to improve their reading and other skills.

The volunteers also serve as mentors and positive role models.

This year, the Oasis Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides volunteers to elementary schools in the Fox, Northwest, Grandview, De Soto, Hillsboro and Dunklin school districts, is revamping the program by providing tutors with additional training in social emotional learning, emphasizing mentorship and returning to fully in-person instruction, said Lori Deubner, RSVP coordinator for Oasis.

Tutors had been working remotely with students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have added elements to support social emotional learning to our program to help students cope with challenges and benefit both academically and social,” Duebner said. “Tutors use the character development in children’s literature to develop communication, getting along with others and problem solving.”

Tutor training set for Aug. 1

Deubner said OASIS currently has 68 tutors in Jefferson County schools, and the organization hopes to recruit 40 more by the end of this month.

Training for Jefferson County Oasis tutors will be offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1, at the Fox C-6 Service Center, 849 Jeffco Blvd., in Arnold. Lunch will be provided.

Those who are interested in volunteering may sign up by calling Deubner at 314-687-1112 or sending her an email at LDeubner@oasisnet.org

Tutors will receive training on a variety of topics, like how to help students build confidence, motivation, enjoyment of reading and writing. The volunteers also will receive training in trauma sensitivity.

Schools with Oasis tutors see results

Oasis volunteers worked with students at Athena Elementary School in the De Soto School District for the first time last school year, and it was a big success, said Whittney Carter, principal of the school.

“We definitely saw an increase in reading levels. We went through data with the tutors at the end (of the year) and several students raised two, three and even four reading levels,” she said. “And they had a more positive outlook on reading, mostly because of their relationship with their tutor, which builds their confidence in reading, but also just overall.”

Not only was the program a boon to Athena students, but also it benefited teachers, who felt a weight lifted when they were able to get students additional one-on-one reading instruction, Carter said.

She said six Oasis tutors worked with students last school year, and she hopes even more will volunteer for the upcoming school year so the program can be expanded to De Soto’s second elementary school, Vineland.

Carter said volunteers don’t need a background in education to be successful tutors if they’re willing to listen to the students, be dependable and show up consistently.

“We feel like it had a very positive impact on our students as well as our staff. It’s a great way for the community to get involved to help support our students.”

Oasis tutors also have helped students in the Northwest R-1 School District, said Kim Sult, the district’s director of instruction.

She said those students also have benefited from the relationships they’ve formed with the Oasis tutors.

“There are so many positive impacts from our volunteers working with our elementary students. While Oasis is a program focused on helping to increase reading skills as well as the love of reading with children, it is far more impactful than just from an academic perspective,” Sult said. “Many of the students who spend time with our Oasis tutors not only need, but also enjoy the one-on-one attention they receive. The relationships that develop between the tutors and the students are beautiful to see. Many of our volunteers over the years have shared that they, too, get so much out of the time they spend with the students because they can see that they are making a difference in children's lives.”

Sult also emphasized the need for more volunteers to join the Oasis program. “We hope to continue to grow the program by encouraging other volunteers to join the program and spend a little time reading books and developing relationships with our students.”