It’s Friday morning, and an enthusiastic class of students from Coakley Middle School walks over to their neighboring campus, Houston Elementary.
They’re on an important mission to help a select group of first-grade students with their reading skills as part of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy’s Teen Trendsetters program.
The program, in its first year at Houston, pairs a 16-member team of eighth-grade students with elementary students who need additional support in their reading.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for Houston students as well as Coakley students,” said Ginger Armstrong Houston Principal. “They’re fantastic kids and I think they’re both bringing a lot to the table.”
Mentors and mentees alike look forward to the experience each week.
“I’m so happy when my mentor comes to visit,” said Destiny Galvan first grade student. “He’s nice, and he likes to read as much as I do.”
Student volunteers opt out of their advisory period in order to be a reading mentor.
Adanis Guerra looks forward to spending time with her mentee and hopes to become a positive role model in her life.
“I like that we can have a relationship together and communicate with them,” said Guerra. “It brings back memories of the things that I learned when I was little. I had problems reading when I was growing up too. I feel good about this because I’m making a difference and helping somebody else.”
Equipped with a curriculum designed by Scholastic, Coakley students read with the younger students to help them better understand and pronounce words.
The program emphasizes relevant mentor/mentee matching by pairing students through a survey according to similar interests.
Prior to beginning their sessions with elementary students, mentors were also required to complete four hours of online training, in which they learned about different reading strategies.
“We had to complete a few writing assignments and surveys in order to gauge our strengths,” said Matthew Rodriguez eighth grade mentor. “The training also gave us some ideas on how to break the ice with these students, so that they could feel more comfortable with us.”
Although the idea is to target elementary students, Diana Hale, an instructional facilitator who oversees the program, is also seeing the benefit to her student volunteers.
“Apart from our students learning how to become leaders, they are becoming better readers themselves,” said Hale. “In some of these kids I have seen behavioral changes in their classes just because someone asked them to be a leader.”
Ultimately Hale sees this as an investment in Coakley’s future students, as those same first graders will be attending her campus in a few years.
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy founded the Teen Trendsetters program in 2002. To learn more about the program and the foundation visit www.barbarabush.org.