Surrounded by family in the halls of Oakland's Burckhalter Elementary School, 6-year-old Pharoah Stewart experienced a moment seven months in the making.
Pharaoh and his virtual tutor, Dan Oaks, met for the very first time in real life Monday.
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Until now, their relationship as student and tutor took place over headset and computer.
Pharaoh is just one of 130 student/tutor pairs across 13 classrooms in seven Bay Area schools.
Once a week for 30 minutes, working professionals like Dan, who works for Chase, partner with kids like Pharaoh though the nonprofit Innovations For Learning's Tutormate program.
"When I first met him, I thought he's just my friend, and then when I met with him all the time, he's now my best friend," beams Pharaoh.
The results have been impressive. Pharaoh's mother, Teika Anderson, said her son wasn't always so enthusiastic about reading.
"I did not want him to get settled in on video games and TV. I would express to him the joy of reading once you get into it, but it wasn't coming," Anderson said.
But since November, tutor Dan has seen a remarkable difference.
"He was reading slowly and not fluently in the beginning, and now he's reading stories. I am so proud of him," Dan said.
Pharaoh is now the one encouraging his peers to read.
"I would tell them, reading is so important. You need to read so you can get stronger," exclaimed Pharoah.
Tutormate is currently in 26 major markets across America and just recently launched in the Bay Area. Click here for more information if you're interested in getting your school on board with the program or becoming a corporate partner.
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