Senator Bennet recently said, “All of us have different policy issues we focus on, but in my mind if you want to cure this problem of poverty in our country, the way to do that is by making sure that people can read when they’re in the first grade. That’s the most important thing we can do.”

At the Denver Public Schools Foundation, we agree, reading is part of an essential foundation that sets the course for a student’s entire academic experience. Through our School Partners Program, 280 tutors from across Denver are reading weekly with DPS first and second grade students using the TutorMate online literacy program. These tutors are making a difference in the lives of many DPS students, right from their office desks!

Tim Fandrich from Sungard Availability Services is one of those tutors and has been for the past three years. Through TutorMate, Tim’s reading buddy Hussein has become a more confident reader and has also created a meaningful mentorship that will carry with him for years to come.

“TutorMate is a great way to give back to our schools and a way to see a real, measureable difference in a student. Reading is a skill that helps so much throughout your entire life. Reading impacts everything that you do. My student Hussein has improved several reading levels this year. I have a niece and nephew around his age that are learning to read as well, I just love seeing Hussein making the same connections as them. I make a point to connect with Hussein on a personal level as we read. I try to make a link to the things that are happening in the story to his life. We talk about our favorite foods, sports and holidays. I believe our conversations really help with his reading comprehension. I am so excited for our year-end celebration when I get to meet him; it’s really the cherry on the sundae and solidifies the relationship. The students, even at a young age, know that we have a vested interest in their success. It’s so rewarding.”

TutorMate provides a forum for an adult to read one-on-one with a student, allowing them individualized support, instruction and encouragement as they develop their literacy skills. Laura Rogstad, another dedicated Tutor, has been participating in the program with JP Morgan Chase for the past two years. Laura’s student Leo has improved word knowledge and self-confidence as a result of his participation in the program.

“My student Leo and I have so much fun together during our TutorMate sessions. He has moved up two levels already and is ready to move up again. His teacher helped to support me by providing some insight on how to best work with him. He is always really engaged in our session and dives into new words. I love the tools TutorMate provides for our lessons, they really keep Leo interested. I have a passion for reading and I am so grateful that my company gives me this opportunity, during the work day, to give back to my community in such a powerful, meaningful way. It’s a great way for the business community to really make a difference. Plus, this is such a great age to work with!”

TutorMate, a program of Innovations for Learning, is a highly rewarding and deeply impactful way to connect with a DPS student and contribute to their love for reading – without ever leaving your office. Companies who are interested in learning more are encouraged to contact Nicole Capage-Brown, Director School Partners at (720) 423-3226 or You can also read more about the program here.