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CMU volunteers launch Maverick Mentors to support parents of Mesa County School District 51

CMU Student Michael Merluzzi knew he wanted to contribute something of meaning to his community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As he contemplated opportunities he heard that Mesa County Valley School District 51 (SD51) was transitioning to distance learning. Since Merluzzi has educators in his own family, he knew about the challenges that teachers, students and parents would face in the coming months as distance learning in the home became a new normal for families. Emilee Christensen heard about the program and volunteered to launch and serve as the program coordinator of Maverick Mentors — a volunteer, virtual tutoring service for Mesa County School District 51.  

“I know that not all parents are teachers, and not all students learn the same way remotely,” said Christensen. “My hope is that our tutors can provide supplemental teaching and mentoring to D51 students as they take on the challenge of distance learning.” 

Christensen and Merluzzi sought approval for the idea after speaking to CMU Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs for Student and Faculty Success Aparna Palmer, PhD. Palmer worked with campus leaders to approve the effort. She believes tutoring is a reflection of the strong relationship between CMU and Mesa County Valley School District 51. 

“I am so proud of Emilee and Michael and their fellow students for being so selfless,” said Palmer. "Their care and concern for the students in DS51 and their initiative to create a program that enables them to help support the learning in our community during this time is an inspiration to us all.” 

When SD51 Superintendent Dr. Diana Sirko heard of the idea she immediately supported the concept. 

"Teachers and families have been doing an amazing job of adjusting to remote learning, but we know some students could use a little extra help with some of their schoolwork,” said Sirko. “We are so pleased to have this extra resource for our students." 

Christensen believes demand and need for help may likely outpace the availability of the volunteer tutors, but she is confident as the program develops, and as CMU students hear about the program, that additional tutors will step forward. 

“This is something that is new and my hope is that the Maverick Mentors tutoring program outlasts COVID-19 and is something that can support the school district for years to come,” she said. 

Parents interested in signing up for a Maverick Mentors tutoring session are encouraged to visit

Community members interested in donating to support the program are encouraged to contact the CMU Foundation. 


Written by David Ludlam