Vello online tutoring

Students at Melvin E. Sine participate in the launch of the Vello online tutoring program.

Numerous students attended the launch of a national online tutoring program Jan. 17 at Melvin E. Sine Elementary School with students, volunteers and representatives of Vello tutoring program.

Valley of the Sun United Way developed an innovative new online tutoring program called Vello, which matches volunteers with students who need additional assistance with reading comprehension. Vello connects the volunteer (no matter where the volunteer may be) directly to the classroom in a safe online environment through computers.

The program at Melvin E. Sine is for second-grade students who need additional assistance with reading.

“Vello connects kids to one-one-one support that will help give them an extra boost toward grade-level reading proficiency,” said Reid DeSpiegelaere, national coordinator for Valley of the Sun United Way. “Vello mobilizes the community to support students as they work toward a big third-grade reading benchmark.”

The program underwent testing at three schools in the Roosevelt School District in Phoenix last year and has been implemented in numerous schools throughout the Valley.

The program is now connected with more than 1,200 students nationally and is expected to reach 3,000, or more, by the fall 2017, with nearly 400 students already being reached in the Valley.

The Vello program has volunteers from such companies as University of Phoenix, Wells Fargo, US Bank, KPMG, Vanguard, Deloitte, US Bank and Automobile Association of Arizona.

“Vello asks that a lead teacher or school captain oversee some of the communication, facilitate access to self-guided trainings, and work with United Way to ensure all program components are maximized for each classroom,” DeSpiegelaere said. “United Way is the community convener and operator of Vello.”

Five to six students each week are designated by their teacher for individual tutoring sessions, usually twice a week, to augment the rest of their in-class work. The United Way team monitors the volunteer sessions to make sure the curriculum of each school is being followed. The curriculum is provided in partnership with Learning A-To-Z and RAZ Kids, two highly regarded reading programs for elementary school students.

Melvin E. Sine was selected from a list of local schools to be the test program for the Glendale area.

“Vello currently supports Title I schools and areas of high poverty and  Melvin Sine is a location where Valley of the Sun United Way currently offers a variety of programming for the local community, so it was a natural first site for us to use Vello,” DeSpiegelaere said. “We hope to move to schools throughout the district and Valley in the next couple of years. “

He added that along with Melvin E. Sine and two schools in the Roosevelt School District, the program is used in Brownsville, Texas; Boston, Mass.; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Los Angeles, Calif., as well as numerous other after-school programs around the country. Vello is searching for more schools to implement the program.

“We have plans to expand into YMCA programs and other after-school programming that exists on some local school campuses, as well as summer learning programs,” DeSpiegelaere said. “We also have plans to expand beyond reading to address math, science, STEM, and many other subject areas.”

Valley of the Sun United Way partners with 700 businesses, 90,000 individual donors, 5,000 volunteers and many schools and non-profits to break the cycle of poverty for kids and families in Maricopa County and are always looking for volunteers to assist with this and other programs.

“If you are a teacher/school looking for exciting community partnerships and additional one-on-one support from caring adults looking to help kids, or a local corporation/volunteer organization looking to sponsor a classroom and volunteer your time in a simple, yet meaningful way, you can contact Vello for more information,” DeSpiegelaere said.

Visit for more information, or to submit a request about getting the program to your school.