Weingarten Realty is committed to helping children in the Houston area. During this past school year, 18 Weingarten associates have given their time to tutor local first graders through a program called Tutormate, a subset of Innovations for Learning. The catch: Volunteers didn’t have to leave their desk.
Weingarten partnered with students from Sherman Elementary. Once a week, our tutors would call into a classroom to request their student. The learning session is conducted over computer software where the tutor administers challenging word exercises and fun games to the student. Though they cannot see one another, they share the same screen and communicate through a phone call.
“I looked forward to it every week,” said Jean Loston, senior accountant at Weingarten. “You can accomplish so much in 30 minutes.” Jean explained that her student, Cassandra, was a great reader and loved being able to select the books to read each session. Some weeks Jean would call in more than once because Cassandra asked for extra sessions to practice her reading. Jean was honored at a Tutormate breakfast for having the most successful sessions with Cassandra.
Each child had different strengths and weaknesses. The tutors were able to adjust student’s reading levels as the students progressed. Jolie Barnes, a Weingarten associate, shared one of her student’s improvements. “The word neighbor always gave him trouble,” she said. “It took a few sessions, and when he finally pronounced it right, it was a big success for him.” With the one-on-one help from their tutors, many students were able to overcome obstacles in their reading.
At the end of the school year, the Weingarten tutors were invited to a class party, where they were able to meet their students for the first time. “The kids were so excited,” said Katie Wedel, risk management coordinator at Weingarten. Out of their appreciation, the students made thank you cards. “Some were so sweet, saying, ‘Thanks for helping me read. I love you, you’re the best,’” said Katie. The tutors were also excited. Jean said that she was elated to finally meet Cassandra. She explained how Cassandra was shy at first, but quickly began to open up and show her outgoing personality that Jean had seen in their sessions.
“This experience has been all about giving back, and Weingarten is really known for that,” said Jean. Volunteers went in with the intention of helping others, but many found that they were also touched by the program. “It is a great experience to share with a young child,” said Jean. At the end of the year party, Weingarten Realty made a donation to benefit the future of this program. Classroom gifts were provided, such as goldfish and recess equipment.
Serving the Tutormate program has been a great experience for Weingarten. Associates of all levels and positions participated. “It was nice to bring everyone together,” said Jolie. Tutormate has allowed Weingarten employees to serve the community and impact a child’s life, all while sitting at their desk. Many associates expressed a sense of accomplishment and eagerly look forward to participating in the program next year.
~Weingarten Realty would like give a special thanks to Katie Wedel for organizing the program with Tutormate.