Vicki Tomlin: Facilitating Success for All
After 31 years as a psychologist in the public school system, Vicki Tomlin, PhD '94, Counseling Psychology, felt like it was time to retire. She left the school system and spent her time creating pots on her potter's wheel, putting together works of stained glass art, and interior decorating. But after six months of her "retirement," Tomlin says she felt that she wasn't ready to put aside her work with underserved populations of children and youth.
"I felt like I had a higher calling," she says. So Tomlin returned to the workforce, and since then, she has been busy working on a variety of projects to improve the lives of at-risk students of all ages.
As a doctoral student in DU's Counseling Psychology program, Tomlin's dissertation focused on the lack of positive role models for many young, black males in the district where she worked as a school psychologist. She asked these students who they looked up to, and many had no role models to teach them necessary skills for success.
From her concern for these students, she developed Let Each One Teach One, a mentoring program that pairs high school students with middle and elementary school students. These mentors teach academic, social, and regulation skills. An evaluation of the program indicates that students show significant positive changes in grade point average and behavior, and if the intervention continues, the results are maintained over time.
"This program is one of the most rewarding things I've ever been involved with," Tomlin says. She is gratified by the success she sees participating students achieve, and she feels that she is making a difference in their lives.
The program has been expanded since its inception to include both male and female populations, and it has been recognized by Safe and Drug-Free Schools as a "Promising Program." Now, Tomlin is helping many schools establish similar mentoring programs. Eventually, she hopes to set up a non-profit organization for Let Each One Teach One, with the hope of ensuring the program's future.
In addition to Let Each One Teach One, Tomlin has been instrumental in working on a community-based study that attempts to understand and prevent violence in communities of color. Evaluators, like Tomlin, invite the community to participate as a vital part of formulating decisions, empowering community members to build capacity for evaluation to improve violence prevention efforts in their own neighborhoods.
Tomlin is also involved with Reading First, a federal reading initiative that promotes equity of achievement for all children, regardless of their socioeconomic status. Research indicates that the Reading First program is being successful at narrowing the achievement gap in reading for low-income students. Tomlin has assisted with monitoring the national implementation of the program, visiting state departments of education and school districts where the program is being executed.
Tomlin hopes to continue her work with underserved populations, particularly by providing a bridge for at-risk high school students as they make the leap into higher education. She is already moving towards this goal in her volunteer capacity with the Black Alumni Association at DU, which is focused on connecting African-American undergraduates with alumni. She is joining with others who are developing a mentoring network in which undergraduates can learn strategies to meet challenges and navigate systems within the community from DU alumni of color.
"I want to help students dream larger, and build more confidence around their own abilities to accomplish their dreams," she says.