Through the Study Connection program, a volunteer such as Mashaw is paired with a student for one-on-one
tutoring, with the goal of improving student success. The program is a partnership between Big Brothers Big
Sisters of La Plata County and Durango School District 9-R.
Study Connection is offered to all 9-R students in need of tutoring. Students taking part in the program
meet once a week for an hour in a supervised setting, either at a district school or a designated location
such as the First National Bank of Durango, where five employees participate, said Gina LaBattaglia, Study
Deanna Deveraux, executive director for Big Brothers Big Sisters, said this is the fourth year the program
is being offered. Study Connection began as a reading program at Needham Elementary School, but expanded to
help fill a need in the community.
The key to the program is the one-on-one tutoring, Deveraux said. Volunteers and students sign up for a
one-year commitment to work together, which is designed to build a mentoring relationship.
"In my experience, I've never had a parent say, this is not working for my child,'" LaBattaglia said. "They
see a marked improvement with the child in school, at home and socially."
The students involved in the program are referred by a teacher because they are having some problems with
school work, she said. Depending on the student, a volunteer may need to tackle math and chemistry, or
reading and writing. Some students might need help in all areas, whereas others might only have difficulty
with a specific subject.
Since the program started, Mashaw has worked with three different students. He enjoys the time he spends
with his Study Buddy and said the program is a win-win situation for all involved. "The teachers like, the
parents like and the kids like it."
Over the years, Mashaw said he has found that all of his buddies have been bright, they just needed a bit
of a nudge to improve.
Since the program's inception, the number of students participating has grown, and students currently
outnumber volunteers, LaBattaglia said. Last year 101 matches were made and this year there could be as
many as 200 students in the program.
"A lot of people think they don't have time," LaBattaglia said. "But one hour a week can make such a
difference in the life of a child."
Almost any adult can volunteer with the organization, she said. Criminal background checks are conducted to
make sure that the volunteers are safe to work with students. Monitors are at every location to oversee
student/adult interactions. And the pair are not allowed to meet outside of the tutoring session. Parents
give the final OK on who works with their child.
A volunteer's age doesn't matter, said Mashaw, who at 82 has been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters in
some manner for about 60 years.
And he said, students are not the only ones to benefit from the Study Connection. Once the buddies begin
building a friendship and the student begins to do better in school, a mentor realizes the importance of
the role he or she plays.
"It's very enjoyable ... and the adult gets a lot out of it," Mashaw said.
Students will be matched-up through the school year and volunteers are always needed, Deveraux said.
For more information about Study Connection or becoming a Study Buddy call Gina LaBattaglia at 247-3720.
Reach Staff Writer Mary Ann Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org .