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Volunteers with HEART: Ashton Colaianni and Daniel Tanaka

April 1, 2015

Ashton Colaianni HEART Tutoring volunteer

“This is by the far the best volunteer program I have been involved with, both in terms of having fun as a volunteer and being able to see that I am truly making a difference in someone’s life. Don’t think – sign up! You won’t regret it!” – Ashton Colaianni

In honor of National Volunteer Month, we will spotlight a HEART tutor – or two – weekly through April. First up are Ashton Colaianni and Daniel Tanaka, coworkers at Bank of America, who partner to tutor the same two students each week! Daniel is a member of Social Venture Partners, the nonprofit that developed HEART in 2010 and operated it in-house for four years.

Since 2012, Ashton and Daniel have volunteered at Winterfield Elementary in east Charlotte. Their tutoring tag-team approach allows their two students to be seen twice per week, totaling one hour of one-on-one help each week. Plus, they compare notes to determine how to best help the students and to share successes.

Why did you become a volunteer with HEART?
Daniel: “At the time, I was looking for a meaningful, recurring way to get involved in the local education community. What appealed to me about HEART was the simplicity of the program and the fact that you got to work with the same one or two students throughout the year. At the end of the school year, it’s pretty rewarding to see how far your students have progressed in just a few months.”

Ashton: “Growing up my mom’s priority for my family was to ensure that her kids received the best possible education she could give us and really instilled the belief in us that an education can change the path of someone’s life. Knowing how fortunate I was to have the upbringing and education I did, I have always felt empowered to give back to the community through education but had struggled finding the right opportunity. HEART was perfect because it allowed me to form a relationship with students over the course of the year and took lesson planning out of the equation. The methodology of the program is proven (always important!) and so easy to follow.”

Daniel Tanaka HEART Tutoring Volunteer

“Just do it! I think the number of returning tutors I have seen over the years speaks volumes about the tutor experience and the impact HEART has on the students. HEART really makes the tutoring process easy, fun, and effective.” – Daniel Tanaka

What are some of your favorite moments from working with the students?
Daniel: “I think one of my favorite parts of tutoring is seeing the students become more confident and how much that can impact their demeanor and personality. One of my students this past year had English as a second language and was extremely shy, to the point where I could barely make out his response to my questions. He remained very serious through most of our first few tutoring sessions and shrugged and looked down at the table when he did not know an answer. However, once he started to grasp the concepts and consistently figure out the right answers his whole demeanor changed – he began to smile, laugh, and speak up. After this, the pace at which we were able to cover new concepts increased significantly.”

Ashton: “It is always so exciting to see students grasp a concept that they have been struggling with. It always feels like a huge victory, whether it’s taken one week or all year. The students are so excited, and I am always SO proud. By working with the same student every week, you really are able to build a personal relationship. I think the few minutes before starting to work or at the end of the session when we are just chatting is always a highlight.”

Want to volunteer?

Heart will need more volunteers for the 2015/2016 school year! With a commitment of one hour per week, community members can help a struggling student gain the skills and confidence he/she needs for long-term success. Click here to express your interest! Ashton and Daniel are coordinating our Young Ambassadors program. Want more info? Email:

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