One Table supports Graduation Coach program
By Jacqui D. Sinarle
This month, 300 people will gather in downtown Modesto to enjoy a Sunday dinner prepared by the area’s best chefs, fine wine, and live music, all while supporting local youth at One Table—literally.
“One Table is a relaxed, alfresco community dining experience where all guests dine at the same 300-foot table set up on 15th Street between J and K Streets,” explained Sarah Jamieson, Vice President of Fund Development for United Way of Stanislaus County. “The atmosphere is perfect for striking up conversations, establishing new relationships, and sharing ideas that will improve our community.”
One Table is presented by United Way and Datapath. In 2015 the event raised more than $20,000 for the Graduation Coach program, led by United Way in partnership with the Center for Human Services. Proceeds helped add three graduation coaches at three new schools in Stanislaus County.
This year the fundraiser is scheduled for May 15 and features presenting sponsor Datapath; premier sponsors Valley First Credit Union and Dot Foods; contributing sponsor E & J Gallo Winery; and participating restaurants Commonwealth, Concetta, Food Fix, Redwood Café, and Vito’s Ristorante.
“One Table is about creating community fellowship and working together for change in education rather than raffles, auctions and presentations,” Jamieson explained. “There is no high-pressure sales pitch or even a formal program. Guests are free to enjoy their time, mingle and educate themselves.”
The purpose of the One Table fundraiser is to support the Graduation Coach program; however, guests also attend the dinner for the special experience it offers.
“We’ve created a unique forum and invite guests to discuss issues and solutions with friends, neighbors, and colleagues, all while enjoying good food, drinks, and company,” Jamieson said. “Guests have the opportunity to learn about the Graduation Coach program through the information at One Table, but more importantly by meeting the graduation coaches in person and hearing their stories firsthand.”
With every guest seated at one long table and the meal served family-style, it feels like sitting down to Sunday dinner, Jamieson noted. “The feeling of community happens organically when so many like-minded community members are in one place — the camaraderie is contagious. In 2016, we are looking at ways to enhance the hometown feel of the event as well as creative ways to share it through social media with people who aren’t able to attend. We hope to one day expand it to other communities in Stanislaus County to fund United Way programs in their cities.”
One Table may not be your typical fundraiser, but neither is Graduation Coach your typical educational program.
“The Graduation Coach program is a strategic approach to academic mentoring,” Jamieson explained. “Each coach works closely with approximately 35 at-risk students and their parents to build a clear path to graduation, remove any barriers to success, and connect them to any community resources they may need to succeed.”
Although graduation is the goal for the student, academic support is not all that a Graduation Coach provides. Graduation Coaches work with students on many levels to help remove obstacles to graduation, meeting regularly with parents to ensure academic support in the home, providing information and referrals to other programs and social services, scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with students to discuss progress, and meeting with instructors if necessary.
Since its inception in 2013, the Graduation Coach program has grown from three school sites with three coaches serving 120 students to seven school sites with eight coaches serving 280 students.
“At the launch of the Graduation Coach program, 50 percent of the participating students had below a C average,” reported Jamieson. “By the end of the second year, 11.5 percent of those students had raised their grade point averages above a 2.0—an approximate 10 percent improvement in performance over other at-risk students not enrolled in the program.”
Records show Graduation Coach students have a higher rate of attendance and less than half the amount of tardies than comparable students not in the program. Teachers also report a better engagement in class from Graduation Coach students.
“The greatest accomplishment of our Graduation Coach program is that it’s changing students’ mindsets as the coaches provide them with the tools for academic success and create a road map showing the students how to be successful,” Jamieson said.
As one Graduation Coach student shared, “That’s the greatest gift—to know there’s a chance in life, that I have somewhere to go in life.”
For more information about the Graduation Coach program and United Way’s education initiative, visit www.uwaystan.org/our-initiatives.