For over 100 years, the United Way of Youngtown and the Mahoning Valley has been caring for and enriching the local community it serves. For more than 20 of those years, Aim Transportation Solutions has extended its helping hand—in the form of donations, education assistance, community relief and positive change—to support the organization’s mission to help those who need it most.
One of the United Way’s primary areas of focus is and has been children and their educations. The non-profit employs several programs to make sure kids not only keep up in school but also encourage them to excel and realize their full potential. Aim employees have happily lent their time and effort in support of these initiatives and continue to do so even in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most recently, a team of Aim volunteers have been taking part in the Vello program.
What is Vello? Simply put, it’s a one-on-one reading tutoring program that makes volunteering easy through a safe, secure and helpful virtual environment. Vello was a program several out-of-state United Way locations were already using, and the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley recognized the benefits it could offer local students. So, with the help of Aim, the United Way launched the Vello program at the Blott Guy PK-6 school, in Liberty, OH, where students are able to use computer kiosks to connect with their designated Aim tutors.
The United Way’s Vello program starts with local companies—such as Aim—sponsoring a classroom. From there, the company recruits a tutoring team. Their job is to connect with students virtually for weekly 30-minute one-on-one tutoring sessions, where they read e-books together using simple screen sharing and audio technology. At the end of each tutoring session, Vello provides the teacher feedback on the student’s performance.
Aim’s Vello tutoring team—as seen in The Aim Vello Tutoring Team photo (l-r)—is made up of Scott Fleming, Co-President; Carli Kuntze, Director of Human Resources; Tom Reda, Integrated Logistics Vice President of Business Development; Sandra Osborne, Human Resources Assistant; Eleanor Arnold, Director of Talent management; Susan Wieder, Backhaul Coordinator; Patty Durkin, Vice President of Human Resources.
“Aim has always been of the mindset that an investment in today’s youth is an investment in the future, whether that’s for the betterment of our community, the country, the world and, as a result, even Aim itself,” said Fleming. “While we’ve always recognized the importance of this, the pandemic has underscored how vital our commitment to this idea is, and we’re honored to have the opportunity to lend our time and effort to the United Way’s virtual tutoring program.”
During a typical weekly session, Mrs. Osborne, for example, will connect with her student through Vello, which harnesses Zoom’s online conferencing technology. For the full 30 minutes, her student has full control of the screen. So, he picks the e-book, turns the pages and reads at his pace. It’s Osborne’s job to encourage him and help him along the way. At the end of the session, he has the option of taking a quiz covering what he just read. The Aim tutoring team began meeting with their students in January and will continue to do so through the end of the school year in May.
“Aim, as well as myself, has been working with the United Way for many years, and I’ve seen firsthand how important its initiatives are to our area, particularly those that focus on a child’s success in the classroom,” said Durkin, who is a member of the local United Way’s board of directors. “So being able to continue to help these children succeed when the pandemic has disrupted so much means a lot to me, our company, the community and especially the kids.”
The importance of Vello—and particularly tutoring in general—when it comes to reading can’t be overstated. Studies have shown that one-on-one tutoring is one of the most reliable ways to improve reading outcomes. And when kids become confident readers, they begin reading more frequently, which enhances how they perform in school overall.To achieve everything the United Way sets out to do, it relies on time, effort and donations from the community it serves. If you would like to get involved, head over to www.ymvunitedway.org/volunteer to see what you can do to make a difference. For non-local residents, you can visit www.unitedway.org to find volunteering opportunities near you.