The Family Learning Institute
That got FLI through the school year. Then Rolfes held community meetings to put together a new, lower-budget model for the center. Still in place, it continues to rely heavily on volunteers, many of them retired teachers, to do tasks previously performed by paid staff. Development director Dan Rubenstein, like Rolfes and two other employees, works part-time. Rubenstein emails that while he's been able to bring back some of the lost funding from donors and foundations, "the major story is how FLI has become much leaner and more efficient."
The institute now serves about 125 students, most from Ann Arbor. "We aren't drop-in tutoring," emphasizes Rolfes, explaining that students come weekly to follow a structured reading curriculum and are regularly tested through a state reading assessment (there is also limited math tutoring). Most show gains--last year, almost 80 percent improved one or more grade levels in reading. Most kids are referred by their classroom teachers; the off-campus location, says Rolfes, is more comfortable for those who might be embarrassed to be seen receiving special help at school.
FLI's budget today is about $144,000--one-third less than it was in 2008. But for practically the first time in its history, the nonprofit is not in debt--and has even started new initiatives, including an on-site program at Ypsilanti's Parkridge Community Center.
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