2013 Innovation & Leadership Finalist
Nominated by CaliforniaVolunteers
The AppleCorps program consists of 52 members that tutor low performing readers for a minimum of 60 minutes weekly over the course of the school year to improve student reading and literacy performance. Primarily serving in teams of two at 17 school sites, they tutor students in reading individually and in small groups using aligned school curricula that is consistent with the No Child Left Behind Act and the findings of the National Reading Panel Report. AppleCorps has been consistently chosen by our community partners as an effective model for improving reading skills.
AmeriCorps members tutor high-need Santa Barbara students that are primarily from migrant agriculture families who are disproportionately poor compared to what most people tend to associate Santa Barbara residents with. Almost 60% of students are English language learners. Members tutor students at least 60 minutes per week using research based instructional methods such as phonemic awareness, vocabulary development, reading comprehension and fluency practice. Through trainings and teacher coaching members provide direct support of the content taught in the classroom. Members assess and monitor student achievement and modify intervention practices as necessary. Members also assist with reading assistance in after-school programs.
In the 2011-12 year, AppleCorps members tutored 744 students at least 25 hours. Of the 744 students who started the year as below proficiency level on the California Standardized Test, 494 (66%) increased at least one full grade level. In the 2010-11 year, AppleCorps members tutored 896 students at least 25 hours. Of the 896 students who started the year as below proficiency level on the California Standardized Test, 405 (51%) increased at least one full grade level. As a direct result of the AppleCorps member’s service, the program was able to make substantial changes in the high need beneficiaries.
Sometimes I forget my motivation. Then I see them. They are full of life, and so much promise. I see them and the walls that the world forces upon them. I see the results of their broken families, of learning differences, of a native language other than English and I see their struggle. There is only one reason why I do this, why I focus my life. If I can change fate, if I can stack the deck the opposite direction, if I can plant a mustard seed, I will have accomplished what I set out to do. Their struggle will not disappear from my actions, this is true. Even still, the bonds we make, and the time I give to them to nourish these plants that grow out of twisted cement cracks, is enough. One will become a tree. A child breaking out of their shell, beginning to answer questions in class, volunteering to read, this is my success. One is enough. Yet how do I know I reached even one? I know because of the smiles I get as I pass. I know because of the waves I get as I walk. I know because of the explosion of excitement that happens when I walk into a classroom. “Can I read with you?” “Can you help me?” “Where were you?” “Hey! Guess what?!” Even when I am tired, even when I am upset, when I see them, when I know their need, my tiredness disappears for that moment. We are there. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to explain. I explain seven times, eight, twenty. I listen to their problems, to the walls they cannot break through, when no one else can listen. That is the moment that makes it all worth it.” –2012 AppleCorps Member
Starting in 2011, the AppleCorps program partnered with fellow AmeriCorps State programs and the Tarjan Center to participate in the California Commission’s Disability Inclusion Initiative. The goal of the Inclusion Initiative is to provide reasonable accommodations and increase the number of people with disabilities engaged in service. The Inclusion Initiative allowed AppleCorps to develop sustainable systems, processes and capacities internally to target members of the community with disabilities for AmeriCorps and volunteer service. Additional funds enabled AppleCorps to strengthen existing recruitment relationships with organizations that serve people with disabilities and to develop relationships with others where they did not already exist. AppleCorps engaged two existing partner disability organizations to evaluate CaliforniaVolunteers programs and suggest accessibility improvements. Through the collaborative efforts of the programs and the Inclusion Initiative, a guidebook was created and distributed to the entire California Commission portfolio. The guidebook includes proven strategies that increase the number of persons with disabilities in service and volunteering activities.