The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy recently honored 15 Broward County Public Schools students with its Teen Trendsetters Excellence Award for leadership and service.
The youngest mentor to be honored was Rose Katherine Calnan, a student at Westglades Middle School in Parkland. The next youngest was Lyndaziah Roberts, a freshman at Deerfield Beach High School.
The other honorees are Nicole Bonczek, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; Lindsay Massa, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; Felicita Devlin, Cooper City High School; Sarah Callahan, Cooper City High School; Gabriel Mason, Blanche Ely High School; Ruth Colmenares, Atlantic Technical High School; Bridget Guzman, West Broward High School; Kabir Ibrahim, West Broward High School; Jenna Kopec, McFatter Technical High School; Maya Prempin, Pompano Beach High School; Emmily Sarmiento, Charles W. Flanagan High School; Allegra Warley-Moore, Northeast High School; and Sara Williams-Ravello, Stranahan High School.
The program pairs teen mentors with first-, second- and third-grade students that are six months or more behind in reading. The seventh- through twelfth-graders are recruited to become mentors, and an adviser is appointed for each program. One-hour mentoring sessions take place at least twice a week.
Donna Cardwell is the program adviser for Ruth Colmenares, a student at Atlantic Technical High School in Coconut Creek, and said her mentor displays excellent leadership skills. “Ruth’s commitment and leadership is evidenced by a perfect attendance record, despite the academic workload,” she said. “She never loses patience and always communicates a deep respect for everyone she meets.”
Each student mentor is dedicated to maintaining his or her own good grades, while helping younger students achieve a higher level of reading skill. “The program advisers are to be applauded,” said Hue Reynolds, public relations manager for the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. “They oversee the relationship between student mentor and mentee, making sure the ties remain strong.”
According to Reynolds, nearly 4,000 students in 204 schools in 19 Florida counties participate. “Fifty-two percent of first-grade students completed the 2013-2014 school year reading at or above the grade level,” she said. “Overall, there’s been about 84,000 hours of reading instruction provided.”
More than 36 million Americans cannot read. Students that don’t read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to leave high school without a diploma. In essence, they fail school before even getting there. “Statistics show that children from impoverished homes start school, on average, 19 months behind fellow students, and few ever catch up,” said Reynolds.
That’s why the Bush Foundation’s mission to enhance literacy is so valuable.
On average, participating first-grade students in the program started the school year seven months behind their peers in reading, but mentoring made a difference. “We couldn’t be prouder of these teen leaders who are positive role models for our next generation of learners,” said Liza McFadden, president and CEO of the foundation.
The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy was founded more than a quarter century ago, and in the words of the former first lady, “If we don’t give everyone the ability to simply read and write, then we aren’t giving everyone an equal chance to succeed.”
In Broward County, Teen Trendsetters is facilitated through Future Educators of America or Urban Teaching Academy Program classes. Individual programs are partnerships between high schools and elementary schools, and the partnership is facilitated through a provider agreement between the Bush Foundation and the individual school districts.
Each mentor receives training in reading leadership, and topic areas are presented in a skills-based student magazine, with eight sessions per topic. A comprehensive tutor guide is also provided.
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