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 SDCOE CSUSM Tutor Connection Program Honored by President Jimmy Carter

​The Tutor Connection Program created by the County Office of Education’s Michelle Lustig with California State University San Marcos was recently awarded a $10,000 check from former President Jimmy Carter at the National Community Service Conference in Atlanta.

The program is the only one in the state to utilize students from the university’s College of Education to tutor foster children, who range in age from 5 to 18.

Initiated in 2002, the Tutor Connection qualified as one of three national finalists for excellence in academic campus-community collaboration. More than 1,250 student teachers from CSUSM have participated in the program. Over 1,500 students in foster care have received tutoring services. Academic outcomes include 70 percent of students improving their reading scores and 80 percent improving their performance in at least one subject area.

Lustig, who worked with CSUSM professor John Halcon to devise the program, said, "The Tutor Connection Program is unique and valuable in that it is increasing the knowledge of a generation of new teachers," said Lustig. "This program changes the perception that many have of at-risk kids. It gives people a better understanding of where the youth come from, and bridges those two worlds together."

The funds awarded by President Carter will be used to purchase gasoline cards to assist tutors and reduce transportation expenses tutors incur driving to and from the homes of the foster youth.

"The tutors have endured the burden of rising gas prices for a long time," Lustig said. "This will cut some of their personal costs and assist them in continuing the journey of becoming great teachers."

Halcon and Lustig have worked towards creating a program that will improve the educational needs of foster youth. "It is extremely important to understand the needs of foster youth children, and to see them for the bright and resilient children that they are" said Lustig.

All youth enrolled in the program must commit to work with their tutor for a minimum of one to three hours per week for 12 weeks.

Also involved with the program is the San Diego County Health and Human Services/Child Welfare Services and Casey Family Programs.