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Ron Coleman '04 is working overtime—as a volunteer—to help close the opportunity gap in New Haven schools. On top of teaching math and coaching basketball in the New Haven school district, Ron co-founded the nonprofit New Haven Counts in 2018 to provide one-on-one math tutoring, financial literacy and entrepreneurship training for middle and high school students—free of charge. 

New Haven’s achievement gap is stark: only one in five New Haven students achieves grade-level math scores. 

Along with co-founders Daniel Hicks and Domenico Dugo, Ron devised a partial solution by creating a community of cascading mentorship where volunteers tutor students one-on-one to think critically, gain confidence with math numeracy and solve problems with accuracy. 

“I love working with students one-on-one because you build deeper and more meaningful connections,” says Ron. “We believe this is a city of visionaries and a city of dreams and we want to be out there with others supporting the dreams of students.” 

To launch New Haven Counts, Ron and Dan went through the Collab New Haven program, which provides funding, mentorship and education to Connecticut entrepreneurial leaders. 

New Haven Counts’ first program, held last summer, was a two-week entrepreneurism course in which 22 high school students designed business ideas to address various problems, learning budgeting and financial literacy in the process. At the end of the course, each group received $250 in seed money to help launch their idea, with two “winning” groups each getting $500. One fellow, as participants are called, bought camera equipment to start his photography business, and another is hosting art therapy workshops for introverted students. 

Throughout the school year, New Haven Counts provides individual and group tutoring for students during after-school hours and on Saturdays. To date, the program’s 12 mentors have served 42 students in city schools, drawing exclusively on extended word problems and business scenarios to make math more engaging and relevant for students. Ron has done all this while juggling teaching and coaching, and without drawing a paycheck from New Haven Counts. 

Looking ahead, Ron says New Haven Counts is seeking more mentors and funding in support of its mission to bring equity and opportunity to New Haven students and families. 

“I love seeing students unleash their creativity,” says Ron. 

This article was originally published in the spring 2019 issue of Foote Prints magazine.

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Since 1916, The Foote School has provided child-centered education that nurtures creativity, excellence and joy in learning.