Phil Wilson loves to put books in children's hands

After helping students abroad through his missionary work, E. Philip Wilson brought his teaching and social work experience to the Pittsburgh OASIS. Since 2001, Phil, as he is called, has been a model tutor for dozens of students in the Woodland Hills School District and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. He has a personal relationship with the students, and says that is most rewarding.

"I've been doing it for over six years now, and if they need someone, I'm willing to help." He tutors children in first, second, and third grade with vocabulary, comprehension, and basic reading skills. He gives many children the special attention they need to succeed in reading. Wilson remembers helping at two different schools simultaneously when another tutor dropped out.

"He was the person I chose to fulfill the mission to tutor those children, and he did," says coordinator Marlene Rebb. She also recalls Wilson's dedication to a specific young man in foster care who was falling significantly behind in his work.

"Many children that we work with in this program don't have books in their homes," Phil says. "They don't read. They don't get to experience that." To solve the ongoing literacy problem, Wilson often buys used books from the library to give to the children. "I tell them, 'This is your book. You put your name in it and take care of it.'"

OASIS has given him direction, tips, and ideas for how to help the students in ways he wouldn't have normally. "I try to get the kids interested, make them want to know, expand their horizons, give them something to look forward to."

Wilson's personal dedication to the program has been an inspiration to other members of the OASIS chorus, where he is a frequent soloist. Other members ask about the tutoring program, and Wilson always encourages them to volunteer. He also expands the interests and activities of members by introducing them to new organizations like the H.J. Heinz History Center, where he also volunteers with tour groups.

While he has helped open OASIS to new things through his volunteerism, OASIS has opened him to new things he has never done before like modeling in the annual fashion show. "I'm quite a ham," he says.

The supportive community at OASIS has helped him to stay active and continue to share his experiences with others. "It's like a second family here. I don't know what I would do without it," he says. Many people wonder what they would do without him.

Written by Gretchen Gally