Schools of Hope

When kids can’t read, they can’t succeed. Schools of Hope is an Early Grade Reading Initiative that helps children build the critical reading skills needed to succeed in school and life. Through Schools of Hope, we recruit, train and place community volunteers in the schools. The tutor works one-on-one with Kindergarten through third grade students during the school day to supplement the work they are doing in the classroom.  Click here to listen to United Way’s Schools of Hope audio promotional spot.

If you live in Sonoma County, click “VOLUNTEER NOW” below to start the sign-up process. You may see below for a current list of summer orientation dates.

If you live in Sonoma County and have any questions before you apply, please contact Community Benefit Coordinator Ana Gouveia at 707-528-4485 ext. 103 or [email protected]. If you live in Mendocino County or Lake County and would like to volunteer, contact North Coast Opportunities Volunteer Network by calling (707) 462-1959, or email Joan Reynolds at [email protected].


Please see below for a list of winter/spring 2017-2018 school year orientation dates. While we do not require you to RSVP to attend, we encourage you to do so in the volunteer application (accessible by clicking “VOLUNTEER NOW,” above).


Why is Schools of Hope needed?

In Sonoma County, less than half (45%) of third-graders currently read proficiently. In Mendocino County, less than a third (30%) read at proficiency. In Lake County, less than a quarter (24%) read at proficiency. Furthermore, more than three-quarters of English Language Learners read below proficiency in Sonoma County (90% in Mendocino County and 86% in Lake County).

Increasing third grade reading proficiency is a core goal of the initiative since it is a strong predictor of so many successes later in life. Children not proficient in reading by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate by age 19. Low early reading proficiency is also correlated to incarceration rates and is a predictor of adult income.

How does Schools of Hope aim to fix this problem?

We engage community volunteers to raise third grade reading proficiency to at least 90% by 2020. According to the United Way 2011 Education Overview, tutoring programs are most successful when students are seen one-on-one over 25 times in a school year. Schools of Hope students are seen twice a week for at least 12 weeks.

Is it successful?

Yes! An evaluation of Schools of Hope by Sonoma State University in 2014 found that first and second grade students who received tutoring showed reading proficiency growth between 28% and 50% higher than non-Schools of Hope students who started with similar scores. You can view the last three years of program evaluations by Sonoma State University at the following links:

Teachers, students, and volunteers alike love Schools of Hope! 94% of our tutors surveyed in 2016 reported that they would return to tutor again the following school year. 70% of classroom teachers expressed they were very satisfied with the program.

I speak Spanish. Are there any Spanish-language volunteer opportunities for me?

Indeed! Grace Hudson is a SOH-participating English/Spanish dual immersion school in Ukiah. If you are fluent in Spanish and would like to tutor a first grade student in Spanish, please contact Joan Reynolds at (707) 462-1959 or [email protected] .

Quick resources (click here for the full “resources” page):