Community

MTC volunteer inspires students to see possibilities and 'don't settle'


Matthews

Mentor Tutor Connection helps underserved children and teens reach their potential by providing tutors and mentors in Mountain View and Los Altos schools.

The nonprofit organization, a Town Crier Holiday fund recipient, offers academic tutoring for elementary and middle school students. At the high school level, the program phases in a mentoring component.

According to Leslie Schwarz, Mentor Tutor Connection’s program manager for Alta Vista High School, a mentor provides social and sometimes academic support, acting as a “safe adult friend.” Men advise male students and women are paired with girls.

Dwight Matthews, owner of a State Farm Insurance agency in Los Altos and member of the Rotary Club, has volunteered as a mentor for more than 18 years. He mentors students referred from Alta Vista High. The students he has mentored have faced myriad challenges, he said. Some come from single-parent households with an absent father, and financial pressures often exacerbate the hardship.

Moving can be tough for any family, but for underserved families, it can be particularly detrimental, Matthews noted. The families of students served by Mentor Tutor Connection relocate frequently for a variety of reasons: job insecurity, separation or divorce or a rise in rental rates, among them. He recalled one teen who moved seven times from grade school through high school, switching schools at every new location.

“They don’t know what they want and where they want to go,” Matthews said of the students he mentors. “What they want to do may not be realistic. One young man said that he wants to be a rapper. Another said that he wants to be a football player.”

That’s where Matthews steps in.

“I try to find out what they are really interested in doing,” he said. “I start from the educational standpoint and ask them what they like in school – for instance, is it English, history or math?”

In Matthews’ experience, the most important aspect of his Mentor Tutor Connection service is exposing students to the possibilities within their grasp.

“A major concern is after high school, where will they go?” he said. “My objective is ‘don’t settle.’ When you talk to young people, the hardest thing to explain is what opportunities are out there.”

One of the students Matthews mentored, now 28 years old, earned a bachelor’s degree and currently works for Hewlett-Packard. Another, a high school graduate, works at Stanford Shopping Center.

“My objective is helping young people,” he said. “That’s our future.”

Schwarz said Mentor Tutor Connection also organizes group activities for its mentor-student pairs, including visits to the theater, football stadiums and cooking schools.

Mentor Tutor Connection welcomes volunteers and donations to fund its enrichment activities.

For more information, visit mentortutorconnection.org.

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