Andy Lesser is a past recipient of the San Francisco Education Fund’s Distinguished Service Award and a nominee for the 2015-16 Distinguished Service Award. This story was first published on Jan. 30, 2015.
Our public school students are superheroes, and like many superheroes they need a trusty sidekick to help them along the way.
To date, we’ve recruited more than 94,000 sidekicks, or volunteers, to help elevate the ambitions and outcomes for our students.
Take Andy Lesser as an example. Since 2005, he’s hosted the Mr. Lesser Club in Liz Scotta’s fourth-grade class at Cesar Chavez Elementary School.
The club began as a way for her students — many of whom lived in single parent homes with their mom — to spend one-on-one time with a male role model and soon became a rite of passage for all of her students.
“Every Thursday morning I take out the brown leather chair and a smaller student-size chair into the hallway for Andy and the lucky student who has a 15-minute valued appointment,” Ms. Scotta explained.
He listens to them read their essays and helps them makes corrections.
“If my students like cooking, he’ll look up and bring recipes,” she said. “Those that enjoy wrestling will have John Cano biographies the following week. He makes each kid feel special.”
The Mr. Lesser Club is open to all students now, and is used as an incentive to help students stay on track. Students that wear their uniforms, do their homework and help their classmates are given time with Andy.
“When do you think I have the most students doing homework and wearing uniforms?” Ms. Scotta asked, “You guessed it – Thursdays.”
Andy has also made students over the years more inclined to help their parents with their laundry.
He owns a laundromat in the neighborhood – so students have been known to eagerly offer to help their parents with their laundry just to see Andy.
“Since the day Andy started, he has been involved in the vision and ideas of the children. He listens! He makes the dreams come true,” said Rafael Nunez, the school’s Elementary Advisor.
One such dream was that of a fifth-grader named Jorge who wanted to build a halfpipe for the students.
“Andy believed in Jorge’s passion so much that he and some friends donated enough wood and came out on weekends and helped us build the halfpipe,” Mr. Nunez said. “Even after the ramps were finished, donations still came pouring in. We had enough to buy skateboards, pads and helmets for forty skaters. A true skate club was born. This club has helped students become better students, have higher self-esteem and overcome obstacles. It would never have been possible without the dedication of Andy Lesser.”
“I guess in some cases,” Mr. Nunez chuckled, “Lesser is more.”
Andy Lesser received the Education Fund’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2011.
If you or someone you know wants to become a volunteer tutor, mentor or interpreter for San Francisco public school students, visit the School Volunteers page of our website (sfedfund.org).
Our last information session and volunteer training for the 2014-15 school year will be held on Thursday, February 5, so sign up today!