Holiday Spirit

Shanelle Co, 17, a senior at Mountain View High School meets with Sandy Burgan at Posh Bagel in Mountain View on Dec. 9. Burgan has mentored Co since they met through Mentor Tutor Connection, a nonprofit that pairs students from underprivileged families with adult mentors. Donations to the Voice's Holiday Fund helps support Mentor Tutor Connection and six other local nonprofits. Photo by Sammy Dallal.

Posted November 22, 2019

A helping hand for students
Mentor Tutor Connection offers guidance to help kids succeed

by Mark Noack

Like many of her classmates at Mountain View High School, Shanelle Co is under the gun. Finals are next week, college deadlines are looming, and it seems like there's never been so much to do in such little time.

Co tries to keep her mind focused on one goal: getting into a good university. It would be a proud achievement for her entire family for her to be the first to go on to higher education.

But to be this kind of pioneer is daunting. Her parents, both immigrants from the Philippines, are unfamiliar with the U.S. college system, and her school counselors have plenty of other students in need of guidance.

The good news is Co has some outside help on her mission. For the last couple of years, Co has been taken under the wing of Sandy Burgan, a 60-year-old retiree who is familiar with the trials and tribulations of high school life. On a weekly basis, the two each take a couple of hours out of their busy days to meet up, usually at a coffee shop. Sometimes they talk about academics; at other times they discuss life, stress, friends, family or whatever else is on their minds.

"We got comfortable together really fast," Co said. "I'm glad that I can talk to someone else about these things. Now I really look forward to our meetings."

Burgan nodded along as her protégé spoke.

"I appreciated her back story, and I thought I could help her get into college," Burgan said. "She's very left-brained and good at math, but she also has a very creative side."

The pair met about two years ago through Mentor Tutor Connection, a Los Altos-based nonprofit that links students with seasoned professionals as a way to provide guidance in their education and other aspects of their life. Originally launched in 1996, Mentor Tutor Connection puts a priority on helping students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, particularly those who would be the first in their families to graduate high school or go to college.

At younger grade levels, this mentoring is usually focused on straightforward academic tutoring, helping students with fundamental subjects such as math and reading. For high school students, this guidance verges into other subjects, such as students' social life, self-esteem and stress management. Mentors try to present themselves not just as role models, but also as approachable adults with whom students can freely talk about anything on their minds.

"This is an opportunity for students to have a relationship with an adult who isn't a parent or school staff member," Burgan said.

This year, Mentor Tutor Connection is one of seven local nonprofits that benefit from donations to the Voice Holiday Fund . With the support of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, 100% of donations go directly to these nonprofits.

In total, Mentor Tutor Connection has about 90 volunteers providing guidance at schools in the Mountain View and Los Altos area. More mentors are always needed, and anyone interested in volunteering their time is urged by Mentor Tutor Connection to apply.

Burgan joined Mentor Tutor Connection a few years ago after seeing an ad in the Voice. She had recently retired from a sales position at a semiconductor firm, and her own daughter was all grown up, so she decided to go for it.

On the other side, Co wanted someone who could speak from experience about navigating the college entry gauntlet. She applied to join Mentor Tutor Connection as a sophomore, after learning that more than 30 of her classmates were also in the program.

At their first meeting, Co remembers being extremely shy, not sure of what to expect. Burgan tried to put her at ease, asking her what she wanted to get out of the relationship. From there, the conversation got much easier.

For their outings, the pair often meet at a coffee shop and hang out, but they've done plenty of other activities, Burgan said. Together, they've tried out their golf swings at a driving range, taken hikes at the nearby open space preserve and visited local museums. Burgan has become both a mentor and a friend, Co said.

Co is now in the home stretch of her plan to get into college. She has already applied to nine universities, including two University of California campuses and Santa Clara University. Now she is waiting to hear back from all of them, hoping to major in engineering.

No matter what, Burgan said she is immensely proud of her.

"My biggest thing is Shanelle is so smart. I just want her to embrace that."

Make a donation
2021 Recipient Agency

Community Health Awareness Council
CHAC serves Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and seven school districts. Among the services it offers are schoolbased counseling and programs to protect students from high-risk behaviors.

Community School of Music & Arts
The Community School of Music and Arts provides hands-on art and music education in the classrooms of the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Community Services Agency
CSA is the community's safety-net providing critical support services for low-income individuals and families, the homeless and seniors in northern Santa Clara County, including Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Day Worker Center of Mountain View
The Day Worker Center of Mountain View provides a secure place for workers and employers to negotiate wages and work conditions. It serves workers with job placements, English lessons, job skills workshops and guidance.

Mayview Community Health Center
The MayView Community Health Center in Mountain View offers primary care services to low-income and uninsured patients in northern Santa Clara County. No patient is turned away for inability to pay for services, which include prenatal and pediatric care, cancer screenings and chronic disease management.

Mentor Tutor Connection
Mentor Tutor Connection matches adult volunteers who serve either as mentors with under-served youth in high school or as tutors to students in elementary and middle schools in Mountain View and Los Altos school districts.

YWCA of Silicon Valley
This group operates a 24-hour bilingual hotline and a safe shelter for women and their children. It also offers counseling and other services for families dealing with domestic violence.

As of January 14, 2020
159 donors have contributed $84,000 to
the Mountain View Voice Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

30 Anonymous10845
John Miller & Randa Mulford250
Thomas J. Mucha350
Lyle & Sally Sechrest100
Wesley D. Smith*
Twana & Bruce Karney250
Dr. & Mrs. I.C. Statler100
Vi Robertson100
Mary & Christopher Dateo500
E. Denley Rafferty100
David Fung*
Marilyn Gildea*
Dan Kelly & Michelle Friedland500
Jeff Segall & Helen He200
Robert J. Rohrbacher100
Marilyn & Jim Kelly250
Dan Rich*
Anne Johnston*
Michael A. Tugendreich200
Julie Donnelly50
Judith Manton50
Edward Taub & Sheri Gish108
Gary Kushner650
Emily A. Arcolino1000
Jim & Alice Cochran700
Karen & David Keefer100
Reese & Kathleen Cutler*
Margaret Chapman100
Kathleen & Serge Bonte100
Mark Flider*
Linda Jahnke200
Jamil Shaikh100
Edward Perry200
Meghan Kelly200
The Burtin Family*
Lisa Twardowski100
Karl Schnaitter700
Dan Pappas100
Ellen Wheeler50
Tom & Barbara Lustig*
Paul & Sarah Donahue1000
Lawrence K. Wallace100
Danny Lee200
Rose Han200
Diane U. Nanis100
Susan Jordan500
Mei Hong150
Leslie & Anita Nichols*
Leona K. Chu*
Kevin & Robin Duggan*
Andy & Liz Coe100
The Somersille Sibley Family200
Bruce Heflinger500
Tats & Rose Tsunekawa100
Dixie L. Pine60
Lois & Robert Adams500
Jerry & Sheri Morrison350
Jeral Poskey1000
Elaine Roberts1000
Eva Diane Chang200
Frederick Butts500
Wendy Wong500
Herta Schreiner100
Laura Blakely100
Lisa & William Rogers200
Max Beckman-Harned700
Feng Zhou5000
Ann McCarty100
Arleen Ballin*
Jackie Doda210
Dolores N. Goodman500
Dr. Lawrence M. Rosenberg Ph.D.250
Pamela Baird & Greg Unangst1000
Linda Kannall25
Erik & Ankita Kaulberg*
Catherine Pratt Howard100
Mariya S Filippova50
Michael Kahan180
Herbert Perry100
Tracy King500
Ronald Swierk125
Alan & Laura Kostinksy*
Ellis Berns200
R D Roode150
David & Jennifer DeGraaff1000
Crystal Chow100
Randy & Debra Robinson500
Vi Robertson50
Lora Henderson100
Dana Backman250
Kanan Krishnan250
Janet Sloan & Peter Stahl1700
Nancy Mueller50
Mary Pulvers50
Sarah Campbell100
Brian & Marilyn Smith*
Katherine Preston & Lanier Anderson500
Mark Flider*
Karl Schnaitter700
Elisabeth Seaman500
Heitkamp Family350
Cliff & Kara Chambers200
Ann Kapoun200
Nguyen Family75
Barbara Krzyczkowska & Massimo Prati200
Bruce Lin*
Judy Atterholt100
Susan Swensen35
Kirsten & Kevin Hayes600
Stephen Attinger250
Susan Evans150
Pauly Family1000
Julie Steury & Peter Reynolds1200
Susan Perkins*
In Memory Of

Jim & Sally280
Mack & Laila Holombo*
Nancy & William Creger500
Mike Fischetti525
Sofia Laskowski100
Virginia (Ginny) Thompson100
Ernesto Alejandro100
Claudia Davis100
In Honor Of

Ed, Petros and Thalia175
The staff at Mayview Clinic500
Community Service Agency10
As a Gift For

Glen & Linda Eckols200

Wealth Architects2500
Hewlett Foundation8750
Packard Foundation8000