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Partners in Education Volunteer Spotlight: Linda Locker

Chance phone call spurs a team of volunteer tutors into action for Camp THINK!

[Noozhawk’s note: One in a series on Santa Barbara Partners in Education volunteers. This article is sponsored by Southern California Edison, a Partners in Education President’s Council member.]

Not too long ago, Linda Locker saw a story on 60 Minutes about the challenges homeless children face, and she decided she wanted to help. She did some research and found Victor Lopez, a homeless youth liaison with the Santa Barbara County Education Office’s Transitional Youth Services program.

“She just called out of the blue and wanted to get involved somehow,” Lopez said.

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

On the phone that day, Locker described her experiences in education, which included extensive work in one-on-one tutoring, and she offered to provide educational support for homeless children in any way she might be needed.

Lopez told Locker about his idea to incorporate tutoring sessions into a summer camp he was coordinating for children at Transition House, a homeless shelter for families in Santa Barbara. After hearing his plans, Locker enthusiastically agreed to help implement the tutoring portion of the camp. In fact, she immediately started calling numerous close contacts with teaching experience, asking if they would provide high-quality tutoring to students who were facing a number of challenges brought on by extreme poverty and homelessness.

“After seeing the TV report on homeless youth, I realized the importance of the school connection in their lives,” said Locker, explaining what galvanized her involvement with the summer program. “I thought Victor’s vision for Camp THINK! was just what the children needed.”

A testament to Locker’s reputation among her friends, she had no trouble quickly securing 10 volunteer tutors.

“Linda really stepped up to play an instrumental role in the coordinating and planning process of the camp’s tutoring component,” Lopez said. “She even organized trainings for volunteers before the camp began. She put her heart into it.”

Once the tutors were confirmed, Lopez talked to Michelle Magnusson of Santa Barbara Partners in Education about aiding in the crucial background checks of Locker’s volunteers. By law, volunteers who work closely with children for a certain length of time are required to undergo tuberculosis and live scan testing.

A veteran of this process, Partners in Education provided Transitional Youth Services, with whom it shares an office and the SBCEO umbrella, with the same streamlined volunteer screening services it utilizes for its Volunteer Recruitment and Coordination program. This partnership allowed the camp tutors to get swiftly situated in their roles and begin their important work.

In addition, Partners in Education coordinated several guest speakers to talk with the children on topics such as specific careers and financial literacy.

Camp THINK! is an example of collaboration at its best.

Looking back on the experience, Locker has fond memories.

Linda Locker works one-on-one with a student last summer during Camp THINK! at Transition House.
Linda Locker works one-on-one with a student last summer during Camp THINK! at Transition House. (Victor Lopez photo)

“Working with Transitional Youth Services, Transition House and Partners in Education was the happiest of collaborations,” Locker said. “On top of that (First) United Methodist Church offered us a space to use and Easy Lift helped out with transportation needs.

“With Victor as coordinator, everyone was focused on each child’s needs and on making the camp a meaningful and fun experience for the kids. We were a powerful team.”

For a total of four weeks, 15 elementary and junior high school children from Transition House engaged in tutoring sessions, different college and career exploration activities, and outdoor learning opportunities through Camp THINK!

According to Bonnie Beedles, manager of Transitional Youth Services, “The tutors did an amazing job engaging the children in activities to which they’re sometimes resistant, especially in the summer! You could see how much the kids loved working closely with their tutors, and that enthusiasm really shows how skilled and caring each of these tutors are.”

“The goal of the program was to give the children a safe and positive experience during the summer, while getting them to begin thinking and preparing for their futures,” Lopez added. “The tutoring component of the camp was a big part of that process, in hopes that the children would be better prepared and have more confidence in themselves when they returned to school in the fall.”

Angela Valente, a private practice educational therapist, was among the volunteer tutors providing each child with close, individual attention.

“Most of my clients come from families of privilege”, Valente explained. “Camp THINK! provided the perfect opportunity for me to be available to smart, resourceful children who are on the other edge of the economic spectrum.”

The camp had such an impact on everyone involved that a reunion for children, parents and tutors was organized and held at First United Methodist Church last weekend. The opportunity to meet again allowed for tutors, Transitional Youth Services and Transition House to measure impacts of program.

“We wanted to know if they were using anything from their camp experience that was helpful to them and to hear about their successes and their struggles,” Locker said.

Just as important, the event provided a way for those who formed close bonds with the children to reconnect. Future ongoing Camp THINK! reunions are in the works.

Looking ahead, Beedles has high hopes for the camp.

“My hopes for this program are that Transition House students will benefit not only from individualized tutoring, but also from the relationships they form with stable, caring adults whose consistent attention sends a message of encouragement and an expectation that they will succeed,” she said.

Excited about her future involvement as a Camp THINK! volunteer and coordinator, Locker echoes that goal.

“We just want to let them know we are here to support them in their education,” she said.

» Click here for more information on Santa Barbara Partners in Education.

» Click here for more information on how to become a President’s Council member or contact Michelle Magnusson, development and membership director, at 805.964.4710 x4417 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

» Click here for a related article from Partners in Education board president Lynda Nahra.

» Connect with Partners in Education on Facebook.

      |  Partners in Education President’s Council Series |  Complete Series Index  |

— Chelsea Pacino Duffy coordinates the Santa Barbara Partners in Education paid job training and internship program.

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