Upon his return from teaching English in Japan for three years, Turlock native Michael Camara could not shake the teaching bug. After joining in on his family’s venture in the dairy industry, Camara soon found himself tutoring the children of an employee who were struggling with English. It was through this experience that he conceived the idea to launch a nonprofit with the aim of not only helping students but also teachers in the educational community, thus the Stanislaus Tutoring and Mentoring Program was born.
Originating out of a volunteer partnership with Turlock High School where Camara and co-founder Derek Alvarado offered their tutoring services after school, STAMP is now a registered nonprofit with a formal mission: to develop educational, artistic and recreational opportunities for the youth in Stanislaus County. Since its founding in 2010, the nonprofit has since expanded to provide tutoring services to 21 schools within Stanislaus County and two in Merced County.
"From our experience at Turlock High we saw the demand and the positive response given by teachers, so Derek and I brainstormed at that point and decided we should formalize our efforts and expand the coverage area," said Camara. "Aggregating the contributions of our 37 active tutors today, STAMP administers about 50 hours of volunteer academic tutoring a week in math, science, and ESL curriculum at local elementary, middle, and high schools."
The tutoring services not only benefit lower education students, they also provide local university students the opportunity to develop instructional skills by tutoring through STAMP, which also lets them network with established teachers. Conceived of during an economic period where pink slips were prevalently distributed among teachers, the nonprofit has allowed Camara, his fellow directors and tutors to satisfy their teaching inclinations in a stable environment.
While the primary function of STAMP is to administer academic tutoring and mentoring, the nonprofit also aims to bridge the gap between local schools and the community, particularly the business sector. The nonprofit regularly pairs students with professionals such as attorneys, dentists, doctors, speech therapists, information technology professionals, bakers, electricians, engineers and others for informational interviews and internship opportunities. On Monday, STAMP interceded on behalf of California State University, Stanislaus to provide guided tours to 51 disadvantaged students from Oakland through a partnership with the nonprofit Build, which aims to propel students through high school and onto college.
"While STAMP is primarily focused on the local educational community, I thought we might help this group of high school students from the Bay Area that hoped to visit CSU Stanislaus. With university admissions unable to accommodate their request due to the holiday, someone directed Build to us, so that STAMP might provide them with campus tours and a panel discussion featuring current CSUS students," said Camara. "The visiting students were impressed by the tranquility of the university grounds and also received valuable campus community information."
When he isn't providing campus tours or tutoring, Camara serves on the Turlock Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force, a 25 member coalition composed of local educators, business owners, and realtors among others, with the focus of developing ways to retain and expand jobs. Through his involvement on the task force, Camara is developing ways to create internships that mobilize the resources of CSUS, Pitman and Turlock high schools to assist the local business community.
“This objective aligns perfectly with STAMP’s mission statement, which is to create symbiotic relationships between the schools it serves while providing local high school and college students with valuable community servicing and leadership opportunities that will enhance their competitiveness as university applicants and job position candidates,” said Camara.