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14 Reviews
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August 21, 2013

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August 21, 2013

There are a few key aspects of Writer Coach Connection (aside from the great feeling you get from working with the students) that make it THE best volunteer experience I've had.

I've been coaching for 10 plus years, since the very beginning. My original motivation was not so pure: my kid
was going to middle school, and I wanted to be on campus to see what the vibes were like. Luckily, we have different last names, so only his closest friends knew the connection.

Anyway, the great thing about Writer Coach Connection is this: EVERY child receives coaching, so no one is stigmatized as a "dummy" AND, interestingly, the students deemed proficient receive feedback that has more meaning than an "A" and "Great job." Secondly, every coach receives training with a group of peers, so you can share tips, anxieties, feedback, and the like. Thirdly, every teacher receives training, so that you know when you enter the classroom, there has already been buy in. Fourth, each site has a paid coordinator or team of them, so you as a volunteer have merely to show up, get your assignment, and find your students, with all the logistics handled by someone else. You know your schedule practically for the entire year, so you can swap out days with others, plan your life, that sort of thing. Lastly, the program is evaluated by the students and teachers every year, so we get information about what is working and what isn't working and make changes where we can.

As for the doing of it, there is nothing like knowing that you can devote absolutely undivided, non-judgmental attention for 20 or 30 minutes straight one-on-one for a child. You are not their teacher, you are not their parent, you are not their sibling, friend, or peer. Whatever they want you to help them with, you are there for them. They really appreciate it.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would start the program in the 2nd grade, which is where it begins in the city that originated it.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 9, 2013

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April 9, 2013

Looking up from the table I see a dozen other pairs of volunteer writing coaches and students with heads bent together over books and papers and pens and pencils. The buzz of voices mingles and occasionally laughter drifts across the room. Magic is happening again...one student receiving the undivided attention of a caring adult who is listening without judgement, asking questions, encouraging discovery, and applauding whatever progress is being made - large or small.

Today I said to the Latina high school student that I have been coaching. "That's a really great idea!" She looked at me as though I had just landed from another planet. How long had it been since someone said that to her? Maybe never? She took that great idea and developed it into a paragraph that left her feeling proud and just a little more confident than she had been 30 minutes ago.

Come join us in making magic happen... This is a gratifying volunteer experience with an organization that not only makes a real difference, but trains and supports its volunteers at the highest level.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 6, 2013

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April 6, 2013

“You are a special person. Step into my life full of help. You always make me smile by your help. … I know today is a good day because my coach is here.”

How could this thank you poem just not melt your heart, and make you fall in love—with a student and with a program that makes a student
feel this way. This is the heart of the WriterCoach Connection—one adult and one student bonding over a writing assignment given by the student’s teacher. As writing coaches working one-on-one with every student in a classroom, from English language learners and struggling students to advanced students, we help students find their unique voices, develop their writing and critical thinking abilities, and expand their world of possibilities. I saw the light come on in this young English language learner’s eyes when I told her she was good writer and mostly just needed help with understanding the assignment and with vocabulary.

That was the fall semester of 2010, and I’ve been hooked on the program ever since. Now I’m a site coordinator for 30 to 50 volunteer writing coaches at our local high school, a trainer and a board member—I’ve definitely fallen in love.

We now have more than 600 trained community volunteers working individually with more than 2,000 students in middle and high schools in Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Berkeley and Oakland. Obviously, I’m not the only one who loves the WriterCoach Connection and the students we serve.

More feedback...

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization beyond what is required of board members?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

Life-changing

Will you tell others about this organization?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

April 5, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

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1 previous review
May 25, 2011

When I was laid off in 2002 and my son was at Willard Middle School, I heard about the WriterCoach Connection (WCC) from another PTA volunteer. My intention was to spend more time at Willard to keep... more

April 5, 2013
1 person found this review helpful

WriterCoach Connection (Community Alliance for Learning's program) brings volunteers into middle and high school classrooms to help students with their writing assignments.

WriterCoach Connection helps teachers provide the 1:1 assistance and feedback they cannot manage with 30+ students
per class. My personal involvement began when I volunteered as a coach at my son's middle school in Berkeley. The first student I coached had completed an essay about her mother. As she read to me what she had written, tears welled up in my eyes. Her essay described in vivid detail visiting her mother in jail. This student was writing from her heart about loving her mom and also about being mad at her for being in jail. From that moment to today, I was "hooked" as a WriterCoach Connection volunteer, donor and now Board Member.

It is essential that "kids write our future!" - our WriterCoach Connection slogan. Writing is life, it is power over circumstances, it allows every human being to give voice to what is inside: I believe being able to write is a human right. The volunteers, part-time coordinators, Board members of the Community Alliance for Learning have worked hard to build this non profiit service to East Bay public schools. We all believe deeply that WriterCoach Connection makes a significant, measurable and positive impact in improving the writing skills of middle and high school students in the East Bay.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

May 25, 2011

When I was laid off in 2002 and my son was at Willard Middle School, I heard about the WriterCoach Connection (WCC) from another PTA volunteer. My intention was to spend more time at Willard to keep an eye on my own son! Joining the WCC program was one of the most enriching and fulfilling activities of my life. The students can be challenging: yet most of them are eager for help with expressing themselves in print. I enjoy listening to their first drafts, providing constructive feedback, gently encouraging them to stretch their command of their prose beyond the colloquial and the cliche. I look forward to each coaching session and wish I could do more! Now that I am employed full time, I volunteer before the work day during first period at Berkeley High School. The WCC is an excellent, well run program - long may it continue!

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Seeing a couple of the students I coached in 2002-2003, graduate from college and move into full time employment!

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Increase its reach and its endowment through locating a full-time development professional

June 14, 2012

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June 14, 2012

Over the years I have made multiple attempts to help out in public school classrooms. As much as they can use the extra manpower, they have a hard time making beneficial use of volunteers. It is a lot of extra work for a classroom teacher to manage volunteers,and potential volunteers are as varied as the students in a class. It's been great to volunteer with the Writer Coach Connection project of Community Alliance for Learning because they provide extensive training before you can work with students. And the group takes care of all the management duties. Having a group of writer coaches come requires some special attention from the teacher, but it seems fairly limited in comparison with the benefit for students. Also, a coach is assigned to every student and we work with them at whatever level they present to their coach. No one is singled out as needing a tutor, so there's no stigma disincentive for students to work with us. I have enjoyed some amazing interactions with individual students who would never have given me the time of day if I encountered them in a different setting. And it's very satisfying to see the impact on the students' work, whether just a kernel of trying harder, or the development of a real writer.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

May 25, 2012

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May 25, 2012

At nearly the end of my second semester of working with this valuable group, I write to tell others the joys of the Writer Coach program. Working with students one-on-one offers each the opportunity to have someone really listen to their work, to offer constructive suggestions, and to (hopefully) afford them grade improvements and higher appreciation for the art of writing. However, some sessions proved frustrating because the time goes so quickly. One wonders how much accomplishment occurs in just 20 minutes or less. After serving at El Cerrito High School for the 2011-2012 school year, I plan to move to Richmond High School in the fall to assist in the start-up of the Writer Coach program there. Since I live in Poiint Richmond, I look forward to this new opportunity to serve my community.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

September 26, 2011

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1 previous review
April 4, 2009

The idea of working with students one-on-one on their writing is successful with so many different kids. The great writers love having the time to refine their voice and word choice. The writers who... more

September 26, 2011

The idea of working with students one-on-one on their writing is successful with so many different kids. The great writers love having the time to refine their voice and word choice. The writers who are struggling find that they really can do the assignment with a little support. Working with the volunteer coaches and teachers is extremely gratifying, because everyone sees the value of the program every day.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the lightbulb going off over a student's head. Aha! I get it!

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Build up infrastructure so we could be positioned to reach more schools and more students.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Like I could really make a difference.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

April 4, 2009

The idea of working with students one-on-one on their writing is successful with so many different kids. The great writers love having the time to refine their voice and word choice. The writers who are struggling find that they really can do the assignment with a little support. Working with the volunteer coaches and teachers is extremely gratifying, because everyone sees the value of the program every day.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the lightbulb going off over a student's head. Aha! I get it!

More feedback...

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the commitment of the coaches, the staff and the teachers to help every student succeed in writing.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

incredibly commited to the program with a real belief that they are making a difference.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

reach more students, particularly in underserved areas. One kid at a time. More money = more kids at a time!

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2009

May 25, 2011

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May 25, 2011

I have done a lot of volunteering in the classroom over the last nine years, and the Writer Coach Connection program has provided--by far-- the most rewarding opportunity to work in the public schools. The one-on-one time with the students, and the constructive feedback, gives them confidence in their skills, and seems, for many of them, to break a cycle of frustration and insecurity. Writing, they come to see, is self-expression at its heart, and getting good at it requires practice for all of us. Most of the students I worked with at least opened up to this process: some had real breakthroughs. Whatever the progress, it is all the most valuable kind of work with a student, and work that one teacher with 30-40 kids can not accomplish. When my husband comes home from a conference and tells me that the high-powered individuals sitting in the room were talking about how to improve education, I think, "they should do less talking and all spend a session in a public school being a writer coach." This is a great example of an idea that works.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

students' ability to communicate their ideas and their writing skills improved over time.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

no changes to the organization. I just hope the program can expand into more schools.

May 25, 2011

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May 25, 2011

I first volunteered for CAFL/WriterCoach Connection at Willard Middle School and was so impressed by the program that I served on the board for several years. I've watched the expansion of the program into Oakland at a time of severe budget cuts, and I'm proud and pleased that we reach so many students, and connect so many community members with such rewarding volunteer work.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

Volunteering, I truly felt like students responded to the one-on-one attention. I had several students who dragged their feet at our first session and by the third were excited to read me their work and talk through their ideas. What an amazing difference to change a student's attitude toward and interest in writing—and school!

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would love to find a way to have students who work with WCC collectively publish their writing. It would be a wonderful motivator to know that their words would be in print.

February 7, 2011

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February 7, 2011

This program is perfect for those who like to teach and who want to work with teens. I am very impressed with the Writer's Coach leadership (especially Karen L.), organization and followup. The eight hours of intensive training was incredibly helpful to launch a new volunteer and I felt so comfortable on my first day. It is gratifying for me to watch the kids apply suggestions to their writing, and thrilling to see them discover how they can expand their own compositions.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

9th grade at Mandela High in Oakland, CA.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

No changes are needed as this organization is well structured.

More feedback...

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

None

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

Teaching young kids has always been something I wanted to do. I raised four sons and now have time to use my writing skills to help others.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

Wonderful, felt productive and gratified.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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3 hours of volunteer time for this nonprofit will...

...work with two to three students throughout the school year, if the volunteer has three hours per month to devote to WCC. A volunteer who is unable to commit to a regular schedule could devote three hours to stuffing envelopes for a fundraising campaign, assisting with a volunteer training session, or distributing and collecting assessment surveys. Volunteer