For Barb Potts, there’s no greater reward than seeing a light bulb switch on in a child’s head during an after-school tutoring session. Potts, a Realtor-Broker with the Aloha Group Maui office for Keller Williams Island Living is a volunteer for the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project. For nearly a decade, she’s helped elementary school students understand fractions, long division, and those if-a-train-leaves-the-station word problems.

With the aim of increasing literacy and comprehension for West Maui public school students, the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project is a free tutoring program staffed entirely by volunteer tutors who work with students on various subjects, while also helping them gain self-confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.

Potts’s journey to becoming a math tutor began in 2009 when her son, Skip, an English teacher and educational trainer, trekked from Boston, Massachusetts to Los Angeles, California to bring awareness to the disparities in the nation’s education system. Inspired by his 3,800-mile endeavor, Potts set up a nonprofit organization called People for Educational Equality (PFEE). The nonprofit’s mission is straightforward: To assist community-driven educational projects and improvements that are sustainable and can have a measurable impact on the schools or communities involved. Initially, PFEE made donations to mainland schools that Skip had identified as needing support. But once her son completed his coast-to-coast journey, Potts, who serves as PFEE’s president, shifted her focus to Maui.

Not long after PFEE was established, Potts signed up to be a Wishing Well…for Maui Students coordinator for Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary School (she is now the coordinator for King Kamehameha III Elementary School). She met with the vice principal to ask about the school’s needs and discovered that many parents worked multiple jobs or did not speak English at home, which made it difficult for students to have the extra support they needed for homework and other school projects. But then she learned about the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project, a program founded by West Maui residents Pat and Richard Endsley nearly two decades ago.

Potts signed up to be a volunteer tutor and was instantly enthralled by the program. So much, in fact, that she now serves on the Lahaina Complex Education Foundation’s board of directors (the Foundation sponsors the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project), and through PFEE, has coordinated a number of fundraisers for the tutoring program so it can continue to flourish. In addition, with PFEE’s help, the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project awarded 20 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) camp scholarships last summer and is on track to offer another round of scholarships this year; it is also gearing up to provide two junior sailing program scholarships through the Lahaina Yacht Club.

Since 2011, PFEE has been the organizing force behind the biennial Aina Nalu Wine & Silent Auction Fundraiser for the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project with assistance from Aina Nalu condominium owners, Rotarians, tutor volunteers and a number of Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members. The 2019 fundraiser, called “Bids for Kids-A Benefit for the Lahaina Complex Tutor Project,” will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Aina Nalu Pavilion at 660 Wainee St. in Lahaina and will feature heavy pupu, drinks, live music by Paul West and an online and in-person silent auction. Over the past few months, Potts and her fellow event organizers have been rounding up auction items—everything from restaurant gift cards to overnight resort getaways to sunset dinner cruises. The hardworking fundraising committee includes several RAM members: Potts, Sharon Beach of Susan Jackson Real Estate; Guy Harshman of Old Republic Title & Escrow; Leanna Roberts of Maui Vacation Reservations LLC; Melissa Salvador of Old Republic Title & Escrow; Fred Sconfienza of Keller Williams Realty Maui; Mihaela Stoops of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers; U‘ilani Todd of Lowson & Associates; and Sharon Viger of Keller Williams Realty Maui.

All of the proceeds from the fundraiser will support the free after-school program, which is why Potts encourages everyone to consider attending or bidding on items online. “It’s a really great event,” she said. “And it benefits a really great program.”

For more information about the Lahaina Complex Tutoring Project or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, call 665-5815 or visit Tickets for the Bids for Kids fundraiser on Saturday, May 25 are still available for $50 per person. To purchase tickets online or to view the auction items up for bid, visit To purchase tickets in person or to donate an auction item, call Potts at 344-5008.

By Sarah Ruppenthal
The Maui News – April 20, 2019

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