United Way’s Groundbreaking Virtual Tutoring Program Striving Toward 30th Classroom Locally, 9th City Nationwide

10/04/2017, By Valley of the Sun United Way

“Vello” Provides New Opportunities for Volunteers to Work With Students in Classrooms; Nearly 1,000 Children Locally and almost 2,000 Nationally Now Part of Program

PHOENIX, Arizona (October 4, 2017) — An innovative virtual tutoring program created by Valley of the Sun United Way has expanded its footprint both locally and nationally.

The program is called Vello, and it matches caring adult volunteers with students who’ll benefit from increased dosage of one-on-one reading. Vello connects the volunteer (no matter where the volunteer may be) directly to the classroom in a safe online environment, just like a web conference.

The groundbreaking program is on its way to being implemented in 30 classrooms across the Valley and is helping nearly 900 children hone their reading skills. United Way has recruited 450 volunteers to take part in the program. Vello schools are being matched with corporate volunteers from companies including University of Phoenix, Wells Fargo, Vanguard, Deloitte, Hines, American Family Insurance, Bechtel, APS, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, GoDaddy, PetSmart, and local Retiree communities.

And nationwide, Vello is now being implemented in 9 cities across the country, positively impacting nearly 2,000 students.

“We are very pleased with the growth of the program and how well it is being implemented in schools across the Valley and across the country,” said Reid DeSpiegelaere, National Director for Vello. “We knew there was an opportunity to transform the way we engage our community of volunteers and the way we support students.  Vello provides a simple way for people to support reading in local schools and build meaningful relationships that bring our community closer together for a common mission.”

It works like this — an employee of a local company decides to volunteer to help a child learn to read. But instead of having to leave work and travel to a classroom, that person stays in her office, clicks a simple ‘conference-style’ Internet link, and is connected to a student that is at their computer in the classroom.  Students click through ebooks, while volunteers provide guidance and support.

Vello utilizes an online portal that provides an opportunity for volunteers, teachers, and parents to monitor progress and movement toward grade level goals.  Vello’s innovative technology builds a safe online environment, and provides the children with an opportunity to receive tutoring sessions on a computer in the classroom.

Five to six students are strategically selected by their teacher to receive ongoing tutoring twice a week through Vello.  The United Way team monitors the volunteer sessions to make sure the curriculum is being followed. The curriculum is provided in partnership with Learning A- Z on their RAZ Plus platform.

DeSpiegelaere said the program is working so well, they are considering expanding it beyond reading and beginning to work in math tutoring as well. The math element could result in Vello being expanded in schools all the way up to the 8th grade level.

“This program has really opened doors for many students and helped them not only learn, but create new connections with volunteers who care about their well being,” DeSpiegelaere said. “We truly feel the sky is the limit for Vello and are proud that it had its start right here in our community.”

To learn more about Vello, visit www.vello.org.

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