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The Sonday System: From a Struggling Student to a Graduate from College


Kelly Benitez has a unique perspective on the Sonday System. The program changed her life — first as a student, then as a tutor — giving her skills and confidence that eventually led her to pursue a graduate degree from Mount St. Mary’s University in California.

When Kelly was a third grader at St. Lawrence of Brindisi Catholic School in Los Angeles, she struggled with reading and always chose short books she could finish fast. Test scores revealed she was reading two years behind her grade level, so she was enrolled in a special afterschool program to help her and other struggling classmates learn to read.

The program was developed with help from Winsor Learning. Teenage students from the community were hired and trained to effectively use Sonday System tools to tutor elementary students like Kelly every day after school.

At first, Kelly didn’t understand why she was in the program. “I knew I was struggling, but not how much,” she said. After two years of being tutored in the program Kelly was reading at her grade level. “At that point I realized there were books I actually wanted to read.” From that point on, Kelly maintained good grades in English.

But it wasn’t until several years later that Kelly truly grew to appreciate the value of the Sonday System. By high school, her progress inspired her to become a tutor in the afterschool program, helping dozens of students improve their reading skills and catch up to their peers. Twelve years after her first days being tutored, Kelly graduated from college and is now working on her master’s degree.

“I also really enjoyed it and wanted to give back by helping students who were in the same situation as me,” she said. “As a tutor, I really liked how the program was set up, and the students did too. It was one-on-one, so you really got to know the kids you were tutoring and they looked up to you. It was good to see the progress they were making.”

Even though Kelly’s student experience ended after fifth grade and her tutoring experience ended in high school, the benefits of the Sonday System have stuck with her. “It takes time,” she said. “But if you’re patient and do your part, this program can help you with whatever it is you want to accomplish.”