MANATEE -- The Manatee Technical Institute needs educators, businesspeople and others to volunteer as tutors to adult students studying to obtain a high school diploma or GED.
Olga Rodriguez, MTI tutoring manager, said adult career education students need tutoring in the English for speakers of other languages program or adult basic education and GED prep classes.
The tutoring program is now offered only at the west campus, but Rodriguez is hoping the school eventually gains enough volunteers to expand tutoring services to the main campus on State Road 70.
"It is hard to say exactly how many tutors we need," Rodriguez said. "There are hundreds of students. Ideally, every student interested in tutoring would have a tutor available."
The GED and ESOL programs enroll up to 750 students yearly, according to Linda Agresta, assistant director of adult education.
MTI now has 22 tutors. Rodriguez said many tutors live in Bradenton seasonally.
"Almost half of our tutors leave around April or May," Rodriguez said.
The program primarily seeks retirees in Bradenton.
"We capitalize on retirees and people in the community from many walks of life that have varied experiences," Agresta said. "We call it a learning paradise within MTI. The volunteers take away just as much as they give. They feel a sense of purpose."
Agresta said several MTI tutoring program students never experienced high school education.
Robert Caballero, a student working toward a GED, was pulled out of school in middle school,
"It wasn't my decision to leave," Caballero said. "It was a decision my mother made and part of helping my family."
Caballero went to Mexico with his mother for three years to assist family members there. When they returned to Florida, Caballero was too far behind to continue on to high school.
"Tutoring certainly has done a lot for me. I've learned many things in math and in grammar," Caballero said.
He plans to obtain his GED in four months.
"There are times when you're in a classroom with other students that your teacher cannot always help you. A volunteer helps you personally with what you're having difficulty on," Caballero said.
MTI needs tutors for basic math and language.
Agresta said there are no prerequisites to become a tutor other than a driver's license scanned through Raptor, a school security system connected to a sex-offender database, alerting campus administrators if a match is found.
Previous teaching experience is not required.
"Very few of our volunteers are teachers," Rodriguez said. "They're just educated people and professionals who have time on their hands and would like the chance to help change someone's life."
The program consists of three tutoring sessions starting at 8:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. weekdays.
Argesta said it is possible to arrange tutoring sessions in the afternoon and evenings.
"My arms are open to anyone who wants to help our students," Argesta said.
The minimum time commitment for tutoring is one hour per week.
Klaas Lindemulder has tutored GED students at MTI in math for six years.
"A lot of times, you have to start from scratch with these students," Lindemulder said. "There are some who do not have an education past the third or fourth grade."
Lindemulder said watching students improve, and even head to university, is the most satisfying aspect of being a tutor.
"We have great people, but we don't have enough," Lindemulder said. "There are so many people who want a career and want something else, but they never got a formal education. There's a lot to be thankful for when you do this kind of thing."
Caballero said the positive attitude of volunteers such as Lindemulder is infectious.
"Being with a volunteer is a very wonderful, fulfilling experience," Caballero said. "What I notice with other tutors is that they enjoy working with their students. I noticed how dedicated and happy they are to teach."
Those interested in becoming a volunteer tutor for MTI's adult basic education, GED and ESOL programs should contact Rodriguez at 941-209-6800, Ext. 2244.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.