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Fundraiser boosts tutoring program


The widow of longtime Corrales veterinarian Howard Sherrod, Virginia, stands by a plaque at A Park Above honoring her late husband. (Gary Herron/Observer)

“Success breeds success,” it’s been said more than once and when a program has been successful, especially a program that improves reading skills, it’s easy to understand the need for growth.

And to make that growth a reality, the Rio Rancho Noon Rotary Club is holding its second fundraiser, “Rotary Roots to Wings,” later this month at the Marriott Pyramid Hotel in Albuquerque.

Proceeds benefit the Rotary Club’s Dick Hillier Tutoring Program, a successful program within Rio Rancho Public Schools elementaries but hoping to expand into a few more RRPS elementary schools, plus into Corrales. Down the road, expansion is planned into Bernalillo and other parts of Sandoval County.

Hillier was a longtime member of Rotary International who drew great joy in helping struggling students reach their potential by fostering the development and sustainment of the tutoring program in RRPS, which helps such students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

When he passed away in October 2015, it was only natural that the tutoring program be named in his honor. (He has a plaque on the Presidents’ Wall at A Park Above, a tribute to his reign as Rotary president.)

Here’s how the program works: Participating teachers earn $1,000 to tutor three to six of their own students after school, working primarily in math and reading; not only do the students’ skills increase, so, too, does their self-esteem.

“It’s not just their academic growth, they also develop self-confidence,” says Kathryn Kenning, a long-time educator. “Getting one-on-one (tutoring), they feel confident. That is immeasurable.”

In the 2015-16 school year, three schools and seven teachers participated, with 33 students – 28 of them met their goals, four surpassed their goals. Student attendance was recorded at 99.6 percent.

In this 2016-17 school year, there are four schools, 14 teachers and 70 students.

Rotarians Beth Miller and Kenning are proud of the work so far, coming at it from two different angles: Miller has long been affiliated with higher education and knows how important a good foundation in reading is for success in life, Kenning was in the trenches for more than a quarter-century, with 25 years spent at Rio Rancho Elementary. (She once had current school board member Ryan Parra in her classroom, she recalled.)

The tutoring program, Miller says, “is a way to help children who are on the bubble.”

There’s little doubt about the axiom, “Learn to read (into third grade), read to learn (after third grade).” And the sooner these youngsters can read comprehensively, the quicker they’ll be able to understand the subjects they’re reading about, regardless of the complexity.

This tutorial program helps; Miller and Kenning have no doubts.

“It’s an extra boost, more than anything,” Miller said.

To help this “boost,” the fundraiser “Rotary Roots to Wings” will be held Saturday, April 29, from 6-11 p.m. and feature music by the High Desert Big Band, a dinner and dancing, raffle drawings, silent auction, money games, New Mexico authors and their books, and more.

Tickets cost $45 each, but you can save money by reserving a table for $400 and seat 10 people. Sponsorships, ranging in price from $250 to $5,000, are also available.

Those who contribute $5,000 should be satisfied to know that amount funds an entire Rio Rancho elementary school tutoring program for one academic year, benefiting five teachers and as many as 30 students.

Cash sponsors will be recognized on print materials for the participating schools; among other perks, $5,000-sponsors also receive 20 tickets and two 10-person tables; $3,000-sponsors receive 10 tickets and a table for 10; $1,000-sponsors get five tickets and five reserved seats.

Contact Earl Waid at 250-9070 or for more information or to purchase tickets.