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Sharing the Love of Literacy

Children throughout the country are donning towering red and white caps this week as they celebrate the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, who would have turned 111 on Monday, March 2.

YS-reading buddies

Reading Buddy Tutors (Left to Right ): Lily Constanza, Yesenia Abundis, and Marisa Upson.

Dr. Seuss introduced many of us to the joy of reading, entertaining us with his fun, rhyming tales of Grinches, green grub and felines with stovepipe headpieces.

Now, several south Santa Cruz County high school students are spreading that joy as well, reading from Seuss and other children’s authors as they pair up with children at Alianza Charter School and Starlight Elementary School in Watsonville. Their efforts are part of the Reading Buddies Program, one of a handful of programs here in Santa Cruz County that are opening doors for others through literacy.

“What motivated me to volunteer is that I like working with little kids,” said Marisa Upson, a ninth-grader at Pajaro Valley High School who serves as a tutor in the Reading Buddies Program through YouthSERVE. “I didn’t have this kind of help when I was little. I enjoy helping my community, and it’s also a way to occupy time and not get into trouble.”

The Reading Buddies Program pair tutors, ages 11-18, with children in kindergarten through second grade to help them develop their reading skills. Each tutor is paired with a child for an 8-week period.
Marisa learned about RBP with fellow freshmen volunteers Lily Constanza of Watsonville High and Yesenia Abundis of Aptos High during this past summer’s Junior Volunteers Program.

Lily said she received reading help when she was younger, and now she wants to give back.
“I enjoy working with kids because it reminds me of when I was a little kid and people used to help me,” said Lily. “I always thought it was pretty cool. Now, I get to do it.”

Meanwhile, Yesenia got involved with the program to help prepare her for her future career path.
“Since I was little, I wanted to work with little kids,” said Yesenia. “I want to be a social worker, so I want to work towards that path now.”

The three young volunteers said the program has helped them with communications skills, and they have learned to have patience while working with kids.

The Reading Buddies Program is one of several available here in Santa Cruz County. Adults can volunteer at the Literacy Program of Santa Cruz County, which helps people learn English, or at the Watsonville Public Libraries, which needs literacy tutors for adults. They can also tutor children in reading at Watsonville elementary schools through the Youth NOW Center.

Want to learn more about these local literacy programs? Check out our List of  Volunteer Opportunities  for Literacy Success available here in Santa Cruz County, and share the joy of reading.

Blog Post written by Marketing Volunteer Jonathan Partridge.  Jonathan is a freelance writer and online media strategist who loves to share good news stories in Santa Cruz County. He can be reached at

Meet Brianna

Volunteer of the Month February 2015foo_vol_feb15

Brianna M. has been working with Friends Outside for 6 months as a dedicated Re-Entry Advocate helping clients navigate their reintegration into the community.

Brianna is currently in her last year of completing her Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies with a minor in Education. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career similar to the work that she does in her volunteer role, which she says allows her to help people and watch them succeed.

Brianna has been an awesome asset to our Re-Entry team. During every shift she brings a great outlook and attitude as well as the ability to meet people where they are at – a crucial part of working with clients who are starting over.

In addition to being great with clients, she helps with the behind the scenes work that keeps the program running, including helping to type up re-entry plans for clients.

Thank you, Brianna, from all of us at Friends Outside!

Meet Terra

Volunteer of the Month January 2015

I am working as an Aftercare Case Manager and starting to answer requests from the jails.

Currently, I am creating a project about recidivism and the personal impacts that incarceration can have on individuals. I have been learning so much about the laws and system surrounding incarceration that is helping fuel my interests in pursuing a career in social justice and policy.

I am planning on applying to grad school when I return from teaching English in Spain this upcoming year. I am excited to see where my future will take me, and will always remember my experiences with Friends Outside.

Thank you Terra, for being a fantastic intern! Your passion is contagious.

Free Phones for Residents in Need

Get a Free Phone Today at the Volunteer Center

Time: 10:30- 4:30PM

Location: 1740 17th Ave, Santa Cruz CA

FO_phone_programOur Program Friends Outside has teamed with Budget Mobile to help distribute mobile phones to residents in need.

Budget Mobile offers free phones to Santa Cruz County Residents who qualify. The phone will come with unlimited minutes and texts completely free.

In order to qualify you must have a  valid current ID and receive any of the following assistance programs:

  •    Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  •     Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  •     Federal Public Housing Assistance or Section 8
  •     CalFresh, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card
  •     Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC)
  •     National School Lunch Program (NSL)
  •    Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  •     Tribal TANF
  •     Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  •     Head Start Income Eligible (Tribal Only)
  •     Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  •     Household income at or below 150% of the National Poverty Level- taxes filled last year.
  •     Medicaid/Medi-Cal card