Moments & Momentum

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Sylvan Learning is celebrating its 40-year anniversary this year. Over the 17 years that Sylvan has spent in the Rio Grande Valley, it has served hundreds of thousands of students and their families. From programs to prep students for the STAAR test to partnerships that provide ongoing training to teachers, Sylvan represents much more than only after-school tutoring. With locations in McAllen, Brownsville, and Harlingen — and satellites in Mission and Rio Grande City — Sylvan aims to be a resource for students, their parents, and the RGV community.

Fred Sandoval, franchisee and owner; Brenda Garza, social media marketing and program specialist; Brenda Sanchez, director of program quality; Jennifer Martinez, assistant executive director to retail; and Yuko Garcia, contract services director, spoke with RGVision about Sylvan’s mission in the Valley — and being the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce’s featured Member of the Month.

Sandoval first crossed paths with Sylvan when he was a board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Pharr. He knew the then-franchisees, who approached him to tell him he would be a good fit as they prepared to retire. Sandoval already valued education, which aligned with Sylvan’s mission, too.

“They’ve got some very well put together, very highly researched programs that are very specific to each child,” he said of Sylvan’s approach to students. “Our programs are very specific to the student. You bring your child in, we evaluate them and then we tell you exactly where they sit relative to other children in that age group and then we put together a customized program to fit that need and to get them to where they need to be.”

This kind of attention to detail differs from other local and national tutoring organizations.

“Our programs are delivered through an iPad, so it’s not like some of these other places where you just get a bunch of homework and a bunch of worksheets,” Sandoval said.

Sylvan strives to be active in the RGV community, raising funds to help families with limited means to take advantage of Sylvan’s services.

“In terms of scholarships, we often do in-kind contributions,” Garcia said. “We are also working with the community organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs and also schools. They do have a limited budget, so our purpose is to be there for students to make sure they succeed.”

Sylvan’s programs go beyond remedial sessions. The organization’s partnerships with local school districts lead to teacher training and professional development as well as districtwide supplements.

“Ms. Yuko’s done an amazing job with her team, which is going to a school and asking for their needs,” Garza said. “Once we know what needs they have, they actually sit down and create an entire curriculum specifically for that need that they’re lacking in their school.”

Sandoval cites Sylvan’s growth as the accomplishment he’s proudest of so far — both throughout the region and specific services. And just as the Mission Chamber’s community focus, Sylvan is driven by the mission to provide superior service to its customers.

“We put a great deal of our effort and value into providing the best customer service we can for not only the child but also the parents,” Sandoval said. “If there was just one message we could get out there, is that we’re here to help. I think a lot of parents don’t realize sometimes that there are other resources out there. When a child is having difficulty learning or is having difficulty in school for whatever reason, I think sometimes parents get a little frustrated. We’re here to help.”

That help is available for students of all ages and their families.

“We have kids as young as PreK all the way to high school students getting ready for the SAT, ACT,” Martinez said. “Then we also have a lot of students who are adults already and they want to do the LSAT, they want to do the MCAT, they want to prepare for these tests, and we’re here to help them reach their goals and their dreams that they have.

“It’s really awesome when they come back and they tell you, ‘I got accepted to my dream college — thanks for the help.’”

Learn more about Sylvan Learning by calling (956) 367-1623 or visiting locations.sylvanlearning.com/us/mcallen-tx. Learn more about the Greater Mission Chamber of Commerce by calling (956) 585-2727 or visiting missionchamber.com