August 14, 2013
New Sector Alliance Volunteers Make a Splash with Reading Partners
Anjali’s Summer with Reading Partners
I was matched with Reading Partners for the summer before my senior year of college through a program called New Sector Alliance – an AmeriCorps-funded program that trains college students and recent graduates to enter social sector enterprises, strengthen their infrastructures, and build capacity to make an impact in the communities they serve. My project for the summer was to work with Reading Partners to improve the way the organization engages volunteers, the lifeblood of Reading Partners’ program model. I was excited and maybe a bit anxious to join the work of this large and established organization.
Within my first few weeks at Reading Partners, I sat in for an all-staff teleconference. Gathered in our Oakland office space, the national staff connected with team members from across the country, hearing updates, and celebrating work from the 2012-13 school year. During this call I had the opportunity to hear CEO Michael Lombardo speak about Reading Partners vision–reflecting on the previous school year and gearing up for the next. Before I even started my New Sector fellowship I saw that Reading Partners was doing important work in schools; I knew that equipping even a single child with the tools of literacy is critical and powerful. But what Michael laid out for us that day was a bold vision of national transformation – a daring movement led by our work at Reading Partners.
As I learned about our long-term vision, and the outcomes we hoped to achieve, I started to think about the inputs required of us as an organization and a community to achieve such a grand vision: ensuring all children have the reading skills they need to reach their full potential. In short, what pieces move the movement?
To this huge question there are no obvious answers. As a young person hoping to dedicate my life to creating social change, I knew that I wanted to spend my summer getting a step closer to understanding how to build a movement. Over the past two months, I immersed myself in Reading Partners, set on making a huge splash in the literacy landscape. Through working and learning from my co-workers, I’ve started to unfold this organization’s strategy for moving the movement.
The promise of Reading Partners lies in three areas: 1) an innovative model, 2) a strong organizational infrastructure, and 3) an inspiring and recognizable vision. What makes Reading Partners poised for success, however, is its willingness to pursue each of these areas with a fresh and fighting spirit each day. Throughout the summer I worked with my supervisors to find ways to fill in the gaps, from streamlining internal processes, to creating fresh materials for our Reading Centers, to improving the quality of the tutor-organization interface. I found myself working with a team this summer dedicated not just to doing their jobs but to finding better, more efficient, and more effective ways to make change. This is a team that identifies the work to be done and doesn’t back away from making big changes to improve the national organization and model.
After 10 weeks at Reading Partners I’m heading back to school for my senior year. As I look to the next steps in my life and career my experience here has inspired me to keep seeking out new and creative ways to make an organization great and to pursue the seemingly unreasonable challenges. I know that with more than 130 sites and nearly 8,000 tutors this year, Reading Partners is just getting started with its movement.