The “Covid Slide” is estimated to have caused a learning loss of nearly 50% from the ’19-’20 school year (NWEA, 2020). Children who are not reading at grade level by 4th grade are held back. Teachers don’t always have the time to do one on one guided reading sessions with struggling students. Nearly 30% of millennial volunteers say they would participate more often if there were easier ways to find opportunities and more flexibility.
Vello, our online tutoring program, pairs teams of passionate professionals with classrooms to provide guided reading support through a safe and secure digital setting. Together, students and volunteer tutors read e-books using super simple screen sharing and audio. Volunteers are able to do their weekly 30-minute tutor sessions from anywhere with a computer and internet access, making it easy to do without leaving their workspace. Students have 24/7 access to an extensive e-library for themselves and their family members.
The global spread of COVID-19 brought new challenges to an already strained public education system. Our team adjusted quickly during the initial weeks of the pandemic to assess the needs of our school and community partners through surveys and direct outreach. We worked with teachers and other stakeholders to transition together into a distance learning format, and maintain Vello 1:1 reading sessions where capabilities existed. The Digital Divide became more evident as learning moved away from the school setting. Vello was drastically impacted by the reality of the situation. Access to internet and individual devices inhibited students from engaging in vital learning capabilities, thus many local United Ways formed local plans to support device distribution and internet connectivity.
Vello supported distance learning from March to May and then launched a COVID-19 Summer Response to assess how a new Vello model outside of a traditional school setting would work going forward. The Pilot included participants from Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Regina, Saskatchewan in Canada. The new approach focused on developing best practices for virtual reading sessions anywhere a student or volunteer could be, while maintaining safety/security, reading outcomes, a positive experience with Vello’s functional elements, and scalability in the years ahead. Moreover, the Pilot positioned data outcomes against known Summer Slide research and the emerging research behind “Covid Slide” that is estimated to have caused a learning loss of nearly 50% from the ’19-’20 school year (NWEA, 2020).
As local United Ways prepare for the new school year and Vello’s role in the many learning environments, the new ‘Vello Distance Learning’ or ‘Vello Anywhere!’ approach will be the primary mode for delivery. Volunteers can be anywhere with an internet-connected device (as always), students can be anywhere with an internetconnected device and the new Vello App, and teachers are able to maintain progress monitoring and leverage resources provided by the Raz-Plus teacher suite.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the socioeconomic inequities many students, families and neighbors face daily. The nonprofits serving our vulnerable community members face their own new set of challenges: growing needs and decreasing funds.
Celebrate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. this month. Here are some activities you can do with your family to promote community, kindness, and equity.
Before the pandemic, the flow of goods coming and going was ongoing and easily manageable, but nothing could have prepared us for the vast amount of donations requested and received in response to COVID-19 and the impact on our community.
Did you know that there are actually three separate tax benefits that you may qualify for? We have made it simple by detailing these tax benefits.
We can’t stress enough how important your gifts are to United Way and to families in our community and we would like to tell you a bit more about how we’re putting your investments into action in our community.
What do you see when you look at this Norman Rockwell painting? We see the solution to ending hunger in the Valley.
This year, Valley of the Sun United Way will continue to provide relief for our Maricopa County neighbors, respond to emerging needs, address racial, social, economic and educational inequities, and help our community rebuild.
As many families struggle with emerging-needs such as food, shelter and financial stability, United Way and our many nonprofit and school partners rely more than ever on tax credit contributions, which also gives donors a break on state income tax liability.
The Valley of the Sun United Way Making Choices Simulation bridges the gap from misconception and assumptions, to understanding that at any given moment one of us could be susceptible to experiencing poverty in our lifetime.
Through the Vello program, Valley of the Sun United Way was prepared to ensure children in our community would not be left behind when schools closed and families retreated to their homes to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Over the last 5 years we’ve come together with over 60 local organizations to address the unique needs of children and youth living in Phoenix’s urban core.