Educating young people is at the very core of everything Deena Hellman of Goddard Riverside Community Center (GRCC) has done over her nearly forty-year career. After thirty years in public education in upstate New York, Deena has landed at a one-on-one tutoring program on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, working hard to transform the lives of another generation of youth. Her innovation, leadership and determination that every child receives the help she or he deserves have been a source of her success and a clear reason why Deena is such an inspiring individual.
Under Deena’s guidance, GRCC’s tutoring program is a solid success. Enrollment is a refined process that connects the child with a tutor that suits their specific needs. Thanks to Deena’s extensive outreach, the abundance of tutors ensures that every child in the program receives at least two hours of one-on-one tutoring every week, giving them the focus and attention needed to progress as a student. The effort Deena has poured into this program is paying off. Last year, 73% of students improved in reading, math and writing, gaining anywhere from six months to more than two years of grade-level progress.
Deena’s passion to help young people achieve goes beyond her role as a program director. In 2009, when a student came to Star about to graduate from high school completely unable to read, Deena sprang into action. Gathering the resources and people they needed, she formulated a plan to help the student both in terms of their educational and legal needs as a young person failed by the public school system. More recently, when a parent-teacher conference failed to provide any new help to a struggling third grader, Deena contacted the school to arrange a follow-up meeting with the child’s parent, special education teacher, classroom teacher, and speech therapist in order to devise a new place to address the child’s difficulties with reading.
Striving for success and never settling for the status quo are key components of what has made Deena successful in her career. But passing along those characteristics and showing children how they can make the difference between mediocrity and being exceptional is what multiplies that success exponentially and improves our community as a whole.