BRENTWOOD -- For the past five years, thanks to the generosity of her community, Jasmine Perez has had the opportunity to have one-on-one tutoring from the same person. With the help of Fran Bowman, a volunteer from A Place of Learning, Jasmine has gone from not understanding second-grade math to bringing home a "B" in sixth-grade math.
"Jasmine is certainly a success story for how this program works," Bowman said of the Brentwood-based A Place of Learning. Jasmine's brother and sister have followed in her footsteps and have entered the program.
When Jasmine was in second grade her parents brought her to A Place of Learning for tutoring. She has continued with the program attending two or three days a week. In all that time, Bowman has been her only tutor, a relationship that often turned into mentoring.
"Jasmine is so excited and proud about how she is doing," Bowman said. "When she recently received a certificate in school she ran in with the biggest smile on her face telling me how well she is doing."
The goal of the nonprofit organization is to connect two groups of the communities. The first are the children who are struggling in school, many times not native English speakers. The second group is made up of local residents who are willing to help tutor those children.
A Place of Learning is run with the help of their volunteers who do the tutoring and community members who donate money to their cause. They even get their rent free from the county to give them a location to run their program.
A Place of Learning was founded by Bill and Donna Foster who had an idea to help local children who could not afford professional tutoring. The Fosters were active in the community and church when they started building on their idea for A Place of Learning.
The couple had raised three children, parented two foster children, as well as hosted foreign students and missionaries from all over the world. Although now leaving the tutoring to the volunteers, Bill Foster continues to be an active part of the A Place of Learning board. Most of Foster's work for the group now is in recruiting new tutors for the program.
"There are two songs that best describe a future volunteer for our program: 'Getting to Know You' and 'You've Gotta Have Heart,' " Foster said. "You don't have to be a teacher to want to help these children; you just have to be able to care about them."
The organization serves 38 students and has 10 children on its waiting list. They are in need of volunteers to work with the students, but more importantly they are running low on funds and not able to afford their $30,000 a year budget. Generally, most of the money donated to the organization comes from local businesses, other local nonprofit groups and an annual fundraiser, but with the current economy, donations are low.
Those interested in volunteering to tutor or to make a tax-deductible donation to A Place of Learning should send the donation to P.O. Box 1043, Brentwood, CA 94513.