For 11 years, a Northern Virginia couple has volunteered with the Latino Student Fund, which provides free, year-round tutoring and mentoring services to low-income, at-risk students.
Michele and Mark Lerner are LSF's longest-serving volunteers. They first volunteered with LSF when Michele, a freelance business journalist, was looking for a volunteer opportunity. Mark found the organization and told Michele about it knowing it would be a perfect fit.
“She looked at me and said, ‘What are you going to be doing Saturdays?’” Mark Lerner said.
The couple have volunteered with the organization every Saturday since.
The Latino Student Fund matches students to a single tutor for the entirety of their educational journey with the goal of building trust and a mentorship between the student and their tutor.
“They start building trust, and when they have trust, they open up and it’s easier for them to learn,” said Maria Fernanda Borja, president and CEO of the Latino Student Fund.
For the Lerners, the bond built between themselves and their students is what makes the experience so rewarding.
“We’re not just sitting there drilling them on math or English. We talk about college a lot. We talk about goals,” Michele Lerner said.
Michele’s student Erica, who has been paired with Michele since her freshman year, said Michele was a major factor in her college acceptance.
“I got into my dream college because of her,” Erica said. “I’m so grateful for her.”
Mark’s student, Immanuel, did not see college as an option before enrolling in tutoring, he said.
“I appreciate how my tutors really help me thrive in school,” Immanuel said.
One hundred percent of LSF students graduate high school and enroll in post-secondary education.
“Eighty kids and 80 adults working together — I mean, that’s what drives us,” Mark said.
The Latino Student Fund was founded in 1994 and has served more than 4,000 students. It recently expanded its operations to Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.
The LSF offers more than just Saturday tutoring — it also assists parents who hope to send their children to independent or parochial schools, run an after-school college prep program and more. You can donate to the fund here.