Passing on some wisdom

Sun City volunteers give young students a helping hand
By: Carol Feineman, News Messenger Editor
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Angel Pena, 9, says he is passing math. The First Street School fourth grader isn’t just “passing” math; Angel is determined to master it. Angel is one of six students tutored by Art McGrath, a SCHOOLS (Sun City Helping Our Outstanding Lincoln Schools) volunteer in Jeaninne Kato’s class. “Viridiana, Rene, Bryan, Carmen, Nallely and Angel are motivated, hardworking fourth graders at the First Street School in Lincoln who meet twice a week, after school, to work on improving their math skills,” McGrath said. “The kids spend one hour reviewing the math skills that they've been taught, with the goal of becoming confident and proficient.” Angel, though, doesn’t want to just become proficient, he wants to earn perfect scores on math tests and he said “Mr. Art” will help him get there. “Mr. Art is a very intelligent man. He is trying to help us get our grades up, to help us be a better person and have a more secure place,” Angel said. Before McGrath began tutoring him, Angel said he made plenty of mistakes. “Sometimes, I go too fast. Sometimes, I leave a number out. I’m trying really hard to get 100 percent on my scores,” Angel said matter of factly. “Sometimes I get distracted. Mr. Art tells me to focus.” As a 9-year-old, Angel already knows the key to his future is for him to be the best in math. “It gets you to a place where you get smarter. When you grow up, you can get a lot of money,” said Angel, who plans on becoming a “famous” football player. Bryan Robledo, also 9, echoes his classmate’s sentiments. “Math is a great subject to learn, to pass fourth grade and go to fifth grade. It’s a little bit hard because it’s confusing,” said Bryan, who was also recently working after school on ounces, pounds, multiplication and division with the SCHOOLS tutor. “Mr. Art is a good teacher, teaching us what we should know. Without him, I’d fail. He’s the greatest tutor person I’ve ever met. He’s helping us in our education. He’s always fun.” Just as the students appreciate McGrath, so does their teacher, Jeaninne Kato. “I have three gentlemen from this program. If I didn’t have them, none of my struggling students would get the 1 on 1 that they do. Not to mention that I have Art who stays after school to help; he’s running a math program. The kids see them as grandparents. They all clamor over who gets to work with them.” McGrath works with the students Tuesday mornings and then tutors after school Tuesdays and Thursdays. “There’s no reason they can’t get high scores. I think these kids, who do need help and are deficient in one or two areas, if you just coax them along, they’re responding,” McGrath said. “With a lot of these kids, if they fall behind, they shut down and run into a brick wall and there’s no sense of trying. These kids, though, are well motivated. It’s hard for them, after a full day of school; I imagine how I would feel if I was them. It’s tough for these kids but they do it.” But these students don’t seem threatened at all by math. As Carmen Perez, 9 said, “It’s kind of fun to learn different skills. Every time I get stuck, Mr. Art shows me how to fix it. I’m trying to get better by working harder. If I have a problem, Mr. Art shows me a different way to do it.” Volunteers a big hit with educators After having SCHOOLS (Sun City Helping Our Outstanding Lincoln Schools) volunteers in her classroom for five years, Jeaninne Kato joked she would not know what to do without them. “Whenever I see them come through the door, I feel as through my guardian angel has arrived. In any one day, there’s so much to cover with so many levels,” said the First Street School fourth-grade teacher. “When I see the volunteers come in, I know more children will be reached because they’re there.” SCHOOLS, started in 2002 by retired Campbell educators Cynthia Moore and Sandy Frame, currently has 165 volunteers every week in K-12 Lincoln classes. An additional 65 volunteers work at book fairs, holiday fairs or with individual students who need tutoring for just a few weeks. “We need them for everything. Teachers need people to help kids who are struggling, for projects, any special projects they can share with the kids and to teach them,” Kato said. “Our resources are dwindling. We need help for kids reading, we need help for kids in math, writing. It’s pretty wide open.” That’s because, in Kato’s opinion, schools in general aren’t staffed adequately. “California has the most impacted school ratio than any other state. We have more students to teachers than other states,” Kato explained. Art McGrath, in his second year with SCHOOLS, is a retired Dupont financial consultant from Delaware. While he has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters for 20 years, McGrath never taught children. But that didn’t stop him from volunteering three times a week for the SCHOOL program shortly after moving to Lincoln in 2005. “These kids at First Street are wonderful. Just getting these kids up to speed is rewarding,” McGrath said. “For me, there’s nothing not to like about working with these kids. It’s a great way to give back to the community and work with kids who need a little help.” SCHOOLS cofounder Moore said the only qualification is the desire to work with children. No teaching experience is needed. “Volunteers not only give but they get so much back. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Moore said. “I hope that all interested in children will give this a try. The children are so appreciative of the extra attention they receive from us.” To volunteer: Sun City residents wanting to volunteer in the elementary and middle schools should call Cynthia Moore at 408-1452 or e-mail To volunteer in the high schools, call Robert Schroeder at 408-3994 or e-mail If you don’t live in Sun City and want to volunteer in area schools, Moore suggests calling any of the schools.