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November 24, 2015

South Carolina high school students give back through Reading Partners

It’s the end of the school day and the extra learning time session with Reading Partners is about to begin. Students rush into the Sanders-Clyde Elementary reading center. One in particular, Travon, makes a bee-line for his tutor Eli, an eleventh grader at Bishop England High School. “Eli, Eli, Eli,” says Travon, “it’s my birthday today.” A big grin on his face, Eli wishes Travon a happy birthday, asks him how he is, and then walks him over to the tutor read aloud library so they can begin their lesson.

Lowcountry high school students want to give back

“They like coming here and seeing us. I like seeing them happy,” says Eli. He tutors every Thursday because it works well with his high school schedule.  Eli isn’t the only high school student volunteering as a reading partner at Sanders-Clyde. Each after-school session Monday-Thursday is full of high school students giving back to their community.

Porter Gaud, a local Charleston high school, reached out to Reading Partners to form a service learning partnership. There was an initial volunteer training for all students interested in becoming reading partners. The Reading Partners team expected about 20 students to attend, but to their surprise more than 60 students participated in the training.

Luc, a freshman at Porter Gaud, was recommended to Reading Partners by a friend. He thinks it’s important to be at each session with his student because “when [students] get help from people they can look up to, it really makes a difference.” He also likes that he can be a part of helping students gain the reading skills they need for their future academic career.

Making a lasting impact

Alexis Johns, an AmeriCorps volunteer coordinator for Reading Partners Charleston, has been enrolling high school students to become volunteers since the start of the year. She said, “It’s really cool to see all of these high schoolers invested and working with the kids. All of them are passionate about it … and it’s not something that they feel like they are required to do, they choose to volunteer on their own.”

Another of Porter Gaud’s students, Sam, confirms Alexis’ thoughts. Other projects he’s volunteered with are usually one-time events, whereas being a reading partner is a weekly commitment that allows him to see the growth of his student’s reading skills over time: “I can really see the fruits of my service. This [project] has more meaningful and impactful effects.”

Sessions are filled with laughter and lots of great questions. The high school students get creative about how to teach their students concepts that are hard to understand. For example, in a recent lesson, Luc defined the word “contract”. He brought the word to life by having them both sign a contract written on their whiteboard,  agreeing that Sky’Asia will clean her room every day. After that, Sky’Asia could easily define “contract.”

A great reading partner makes for a great lesson

DSC_0183“Tell me one thing you’ve learned today,” says Colton Price, AmeriCorps site coordinator at Sanders-Clyde. Students stand next to the door in single file line, many of them requesting to stay just a little bit longer with their tutor.

Travon jumps out of line and runs back to his tutor Eli to give him one last hug. “He’s fun,” says Travon of his reading partner.

Needless to say, Sanders-Clyde’s after-school sessions are the place to be, thanks to the amazing reading partners who dedicate their time.

If this sounds like something you want to be a part of, sign up to be a reading partner! Whether you’re 14 or 100, you can make a lifelong impact on a child who struggles with reading.

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