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February 3, 2023

Quarterly Newsletter: February 2023

Program updates

Reading Partners’ partner schools for the 2022-2023 school year include:

Berkeley County School District February 2023

  • Berkeley Elementary School
  • College Park Elementary
  • St. Stephen Elementary
  • Whitesville Elementary

Charleston County School DistrictFebruary 2023

  • A.C. Corcoran Elementary
  • Angel Oak Elementary
  • Charleston Progressive Academy 
  • Macolm C. Hursey Montessori
  • Midland Park Primary
  • Mr. Zion Elementary
  • Philip Simmons Elementary
  • Pinehurst Elementary
  • St. Andrew’s School of Math and Science

February 2023Our Program and AmeriCorps teams, along with our dedicated volunteers, are doing critical work at these schools. Students are currently participating in mid-year literacy testing and we expect great outcomes. During the 2021-2022 school year, nearly 80% of our students achieved or exceeded their primary end-of-year literacy growth goal.

AmeriCorps professional development and service days

Reading Partners’ AmeriCorps team and program staff participated in two professional development days during the last few weeks of 2022.  The first was on November 8 at Cypress Gardens and the second was on December 13 at the office.  Development days are scheduled to build team capacity through sharing knowledge and experiences in the field, as well as inviting experts from the area to present on topics important to our work.  

February 2023

On December 13, Reading Partners invited our new Board Member, Richard Waring, to lead a discussion on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (his field of expertise) at the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce.

A bit of fun is also added to the mix on professional development days, with the teams participating in a scavenger hunt at Cypress Gardens and a gingerbread house design competition at the December gathering.

February 2023

Our AmeriCorps members and program staff who provide their time, talent, and leadership to help Reading Partners implement its impactful volunteer reading tutor program recently participated in two service days for local nonprofit organizations. We thank them for their service to our community and for their example to other young professionals seeking opportunities to make a difference in the world.

mlk day of service

January 16, 2023: The RP team helped with the half marathon at Firefly Distillery on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

February 2023

December 20, 2022: Just in time for the holidays, the RP team prepared food boxes at the Lowcountry Food Bank to be given to local families in need. 

Welcome to our new program manager, Celie Meyer!

Celie earned a BAIS degree from the University of South Carolina. She has been an elementary educator for over 20 years, having taught third, first, and fifth grades in VA and SC. Her passion for teaching reading and early intervention, as well as her desire to contribute to her community in a meaningful way, led her to Reading Partners. She strongly believes intervention and support are essential to providing children the best opportunity to become lifelong readers and a catalyst for future success in all aspects of a person’s life. Celie is excited to be a part of Reading Partners and use her experience in education to make a positive impact in the lives of children.

Community Engagement Updates

We still need volunteers!

In addition to our award-winning curriculum, the key to Reading Partners’ successful outcomes is our strong community support; specifically, from the hundreds of individuals who volunteer to tutor students, K-5, who are struggling with reading.  By donating just 1-2 hours of their time over a week over a 12 week period, volunteer tutors help Reading Partners’ students gain the literacy skills needed for school and in life.

If you, or friends, family, church, employer, or other associates, are looking for a meaningful volunteer opportunity, please reach out to Reading Partners. With 13 schools from which to choose, and the option to tutor virtually, tutoring at one of these schools will be one of the most impactful volunteer opportunities of your life.  For more information, click here

Development Updates

Fundraising News

big dreams

From September through December 2022, Reading Partners received over $51,000 in grants from local community, corporate, and family foundations listed below. We are so grateful for their support!  

  • Boeing Employees Community Fund – $3,000
  • Coastal Community Foundation – $10,000
  • Grace Episcopal Church, Tea Room Grant – $2,300
  • Home Community Fund – $1,000
  • Kiawah Cares – $20,000
  • Sisters of Charity – $5,000
  • South Carolina Ports Authority – $2,500
  • The Joanna Foundation – $1,500
  • Volvo Cars USA Operations Grant Fund – $6,000

Reading Partners’ year-end annual appeal, Big Dreams, raised over $53,000!  This is $20,000 more than last year’s campaign. We truly appreciate our donors, old friends and new, who recognize and support the critical need for our volunteer tutor services in under-resourced communities.  All dollars raised will help our students realize their big dreams by helping them gain the foundational literacy skills they need to succeed.

Welcome to our new development manager, Bridget Elliott Darst!

Bridget Elliott Darst has 20 years of experience in nonprofit development and marketing. For much of her career, she worked in Chicago, fundraising for organizations providing emergency shelter, supportive housing, legal aid, domestic violence counseling, job training and placement, and comprehensive human services. For the past ten years, Bridget has focused her fundraising efforts on procuring grants through government entities, foundations, and corporations. Ms. Elliott Darst holds a BA in Communication Arts.

Books & Breakfast success

books and breakfast tableOn October 12, 2022, we celebrated 10 years “in the books” with our Books and Breakfast fundraiser at Francis Marion. Ola Whitney, CEO of Reading Partners, kicked off the celebration by greeting the 158 guests attending the event. Ola was followed by our Board Chair, Emily Swanson who spoke of how much it has meant to her to support our organization for the last nine years. 

Our keynote speaker and board member, Chris Singleton, gave an inspiring talk on the power of impacting our youth by helping them learn to read. Next, Dr. Elaine Graham, the principal of St. Stephens Elementary told our audience how vital Reading Partners is in their school system. Our new board member and nationally recognized volunteer, Gerald Stinson, got the crowd excited about Reading Partners and making a difference in a student’s life. Kecia Greenho, our outgoing executive director, gave the call to action on how to donate to Reading Partners.

books and breakfast

We welcomed two new board members in January

The Reading Partners Board of Directors welcomed two new members at its January 24, 2023 meeting:  Hacker Burr and Richard Waring.  

hacker burrHacker Burr is originally from Boston, Massachusetts with roots in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and has spent the past 20 years working in independent schools in a variety of leadership roles. 

After earning a degree in English Literature from Roanoke College, Hacker went on to earn his MBA from The Citadel. Starting out as a teacher and coach, he quickly rose in the ranks at Charleston Collegiate School–serving as Division Head, Admission Director, and Advancement Director along his path to the Head of School (at age 33). Hacker led the organization through a successful rebrand, and explosive enrollment growth, while simultaneously serving as the organization’s primary major gifts officer.

Currently, Hacker is Managing Director of Big Back Pack LLC, a strategic consulting firm working with independent schools on the East Coast. A passionate outdoorsman, and an avid reader, golfer, and snowboarder, Hacker and his wife, Stephanie, reside in Charleston (SC) with their three children: McAlley (15), Hadley (12), and Hacker (8), as well as their two yellow labs, Dude and Brady. 

richard waringRichard Waring serves as the Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce. In this role, Richard has the opportunity to address key regional issues challenging the minority population and further enhance the Chamber’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) efforts.

Richard has demonstrated a passion for improving and developing the relationship between the minority community and the Chamber. As Vice President for DE&I, he will lead the newly launched Minority Business Accelerator program, designed specifically to educate and grow minority businesses through a comprehensive curriculum addressing topics and challenges they’re facing, paired with financial advisors to assist them in creating a strategic growth action plan.

As a native Charlestonian, Richard has seen the hardships that his neighbors have endured and intentionally finds ways to be of service to his community. Previously, Richard served as the Student Services Chief of Staff for Trident Technical College where he sought equitable outcomes for all students and assisted with providing holistic services for students with non-traditional challenges.

Richard’s top regional concerns are economic development, creating equitable outcomes for all people, and generating a new level of awareness for minority resources offered by the Chamber.

Spring concert event at Park Circle’s Firefly Distillery

Join us at Firefly Distillery on May 18 to Light Up Literacy! Open to the public and all ages, this event will benefit Reading Partners and help us spread the word about our organization. There will be live music, food trucks, and drinks. Bring your family, friends, and a couple of lawn chairs for a casual evening on the marsh. Tickets will be available soon!

Scholarship opportunity!

In honor of our 10-year celebration, we are offering a $1,000 scholarship to an upcoming high school graduate who participated in the Reading Partners program as a child. If you or someone you know is a Reading Partners alum, please reach out to

  • Logo for Accelerate
  • Logo for Five Below
  • Logo for Hellman Foundation
  • Logo for Bezos Family Foundation
  • Logo for George Kaiser Family Foundation
  • Logo for Panda Cares
  • Logo for The Duke Endowment
  • Logo for Deerbrook Charitable Trust

Thanks to our partners

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