In the picturesque community of Lakeside, Ariz., Blue Ridge Elementary School is home to nearly 1,200 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
A large school, Blue Ridge has changed considerably over the past decade. Rising poverty and its corresponding challenges are part of what the teachers tackle daily.
Many of their new students join the school far behind in reading skills, which presents challenges for learning in every subject. It also puts youth at a far higher risk for academic problems later in life.
Thankfully, the surrounding community is strongly supportive of education. And thanks to two volunteer programs, students who need it are getting extra help.
The Parent, Teacher, Student Organization (PTSO) has launched an initiative to recruit volunteers who work on literacy skills with second graders. It’s important to reach them at an early age, when they’re still learning to read.
In later years, they’ll be reading to learn and if reading skills are lacking, it can be frustrating for students.
In Arizona, only 44 percent of third graders are proficient in reading. The Arizona Education Progress Meter has set a goal of 72 percent proficiency by the year 2030, and volunteers at Blue Ridge are helping to propel that in the right direction.
And the PTSO isn’t the only group involved. The Rotary Volunteer Reading Mentors (RVRM) works with kids of all ages.
Volunteers come to the school at least once a week to work with students in small groups, or as individuals. Often, just letting students get extra reading time is all it takes.
Between the two programs, Blue Ridge is benefitting from the help of more than 40 individuals.
Despite having been in place only a year, teachers are already enthusiastic about how students are growing, both in reading skills and in confidence. And they’re reaching an average of 100 children per week, having no small impact.
Other districts are already implementing similar programs – and since it’s no cost to the school, all it takes is time to coordinate. It’s a great example of how communities can partner with local schools to help students be successful.
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