In 1958, Helen Webber began an informal reading group for the children of her neighborhood in her apartment in East Harlem. The program, which began as a simple reading group, has grown to become the East Harlem Tutorial Program for 20 years.
The East Harlem Tutorial Program provides a number of services for the residents of the East Harlem community. The program provides one-on-one tutoring and mentoring to children ages 6 to 18 and counseling for college students. Seminars are provided on topics of concern to teenagers and parent workshops for the parents of the community. The program works to help all children discover and develop their own interests and talents. It also strives to prepare all teenagers for education or employment, encourages all parents to play an active role in their child's education and supports all members of the community as they strive to reach their full potential.
The East Harlem community where the program resides has very few free, high-quality educational activities that the children can participate after school or during the summer. Students in this area often do not receive individual attention in school, due to the large number of students in each class. In addition, job opportunities for teenagers are often scarce. East Harlem Tutorial attempts to overcome these obstacles by providing scholarships to high schoolers enrolled in the program, providing summer camps, conducting college tours, providing mentors and providing tutors. They also provide offsite mentoring and tutoring for the teenagers in the area.
The program has a large and diverse base of volunteers. Volunteers range in age from 13 to 80, with occupations ranging from plumbers to stock brokers. Student volunteers also come from various racial and socioeconomic backgrounds.
East Harlem Tutorial also serves as a model of excellence for communities, nationwide, who are either starting or are currently running similar programs. These agencies come to East Harlem to observe and learn the techniques of East Harlem Tutorial to take home with them.
The program receives full funding through donations and grants, with 33% coming from individual contributions.