How Rio Rancho Public Schools is helping younger students succeed

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RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Nine-year-old Xavier Molinar is one of the dozens of elementary students participating in the Dick Hillier Tutoring Program in Rio Rancho.

“They said, ‘do you want to be in tutoring,’ and I said, ‘yes,’ because my NWA score was pretty low,” the fourth grader at Vista Grande Elementary told KOB 4.

The program – funded through donations and the Rio Rancho Rotary Club – focuses on boosting reading scores. It has served more than 800 students since its establishment 10 years ago.

“We’ve worked on like nouns and adverbs,” Molinar explained.

The tutors in this program are the students’ own teachers, who receive a $1,000 stipend to work with students for 30 hours over a 15-week period.

“The teachers who are interested in tutoring will come forward, and they will select up to six children from their own classroom, who are no more than one grade below reading level,” said the New Generations Director for the Rio Rancho Rotary Club, Lorraine Lowen. “The overall success rate is anywhere between 93% and 100%. We have had years where we’ve had 100% success rate, but 93% is good.”

This year, the Rio Rancho Rotary Club said it is offering the program at five RRPS elementary schools: Vista Grande, Cielo Azul, Maggie Cordova, Joe Harris and Puesta Del Sol. In total, they have 13 teachers participating and 57 students.

Vista Grande teacher Brittany Olson said she jumped at the opportunity to get her 4th graders involved.

“I chose these specific kids because they were kind of on the bubble of right below grade level, but I know they have the potential to do it, “ she said. “After working for a few months with them on this tutoring program, they’ve gone up to grade level, and we are now able to progress in the skills we can work on based off of their data, and also just what I’m seeing in the classroom.”

“If they can’t read, the doors are almost always closed for these children,” Lowen said. “That helps these children prepare for adult life.”

Much like learning, the Dick Hillier Tutoring Program took a hit during the pandemic. The Rio Rancho Rotary Club said it used to help more than one hundred kids per semester, and it is working its way back up to those numbers.

For more information on how community members and local business partners can keep the program going and growing, click here or call 505-250-9070.