Only a month ago, Ashley, a local high school student, found it difficult to read in front of her classmates. Today, as she learns to sound out words during one-on-one tutoring sessions organized by JustREAD, a nonprofit literacy program, Ashley is learning a new attitude toward reading.
"I hate reading out loud in class," she said. But with her tutors, "If you say something wrong here, they don't laugh, they just help you."
At Mountain View High School, some students are as many as five grade levels behind in reading and writing. These students can easily lose hope, said Principal Keith Moody during a luncheon for JustREAD tutors last week.
The nonprofit, which pairs volunteer tutors with underperforming students from Mountain View High and Crittenden Middle School, has become essential in helping these students build their literary skills over the last three years, Moody said. He was joined by MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves and JustREAD directors in a celebration for new volunteers last Friday at the nonprofit's tutoring center behind the district office.
"They come here and they get hope and confidence," Moody told the tutors. "Someday they will thank you and know you made it all possible."
Groves, who also gave a speech to the volunteers, said the main reasons students fall behind are because they arrive to the district poorly prepared, come from "literacy-deficient homes" or are English language learners.
After 10 hours of training, the tutors are ready to give students the extra help they need to catch up. The volunteers work one-on-one with students in grades six to 12 who have been recommended by parents, teachers or counselors.
Meeting at JustREAD centers at the district office and Crittenden, the approximately 40 students in the program review vocabulary and punctuation with their tutors during an elective period five days a week. There they practice the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills essential for passing the mandatory high school exit exam and earning graduation credits. Last year, all but one of the students in the program passed the exit exam and graduated on time.
Founded in 2005, JustREAD relies heavily on donations. Although all board members and tutors volunteer their time, the program spends nearly $100,000 a year on tutoring services, with the money going to tutoring supplies and curriculum. The program recently received a grant from the Koret Foundation, which will match up to $30,000. All matched funds must be pledged by Saturday, Nov. 15.
"The schools are just overwhelmed," said board member and tutor Mina Wuchenich. "Students who did not get it in an earlier grade have no resources besides us."
To find out about more about JustREAD or to donate, visit www.justreadcenters.org or e-mail program director Wendy Furuichi at firstname.lastname@example.org.