Upstate Oasis Program Brings Mentors to SCSD Schools

     Published on 4/10/18   Tagged under:    District News    Franklin Elementary School    Huntington K-8 School    McKinley-Brighton Elementary School    Meachem Elementary School   

An Upstate OASIS tutor reads with a McKinley-Brighton Elementary student.“Which do you like better… reading or coloring?” Oasis tutor Rosalind NaPier asked a first grader at McKinley-Brighton as the youngster colored in an ‘About Me’ book.

“Hmm…” the student pondered as she completed a crayon drawing of a monkey, her favorite animal. “I like reading better!”

Thanks to a partnership with Oasis Tutoring through Upstate Medical University, first and third grade students have built a love of reading through weekly visits with a tutor.

Rosalind, a former children’s librarian, said that developed student enthusiasm is what led her to start working with Upstate Oasis five years ago.

“I love children and books and I’m committed to early childhood literacy, so I wanted to make a contribution where I can,” she explained. “I don’t know how much of an academic impact we have, but just that one-on-one time really helps the students get excited about reading. You really have to take whatever opportunity you can to provide motivation and encouragement.”

More than 50 Upstate Oasis volunteers visit weekly with kindergarten through third grade students at Franklin, Huntington, Meachem and McKinley-Brighton – with the hope to expand to additional schools in the near future. Their goal? To read and write with students, help improve comprehension and ultimately, to be a positive role model.

“The tutors plan a whole lesson, so it’s no extra work on our part,” McKinley-Brighton first grade teacher Adrienne Rutkowski explained. “And the kids look forward to going every week. There’s no pressure on them to perform like there can be in a classroom – it’s a relaxed atmosphere, so it makes them enthusiastic about reading.”

At Huntington, a third grade student sighed as she finished reading the book ‘So Many Penguins.’

“I’m tired already!” she exclaimed.

“Reading is work,” Upstate Oasis tutor Bill Cohen replied calmly. “It isn’t easy, but it’s important!”

Huntington third grade teacher Nancy Whitney said the regular support of “Mr. Bill” really helps students thrive.  

“I love the Upstate Oasis mentor program, especially Mr. Bill,” Ms. Whitney said. “He's very dedicated to the program. It gives a few of my struggling students an opportunity to read with an adult regularly in a one on one situation, which is a critical component of a good, balanced literacy program.  I love that we have the ability to provide them with this!”

If you are a school interested in bringing Upstate Oasis tutors to your students, please contact Shelly Lee at or call (315) 464-1746.