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May 1, 2019

Reading Partners Tutor & Journalist Matt Bracken unlocks student potential

Originally posted on Your Positive Imprint by Catherine Praiswater.
This blog post corresponds to a podcast episode featuring Matt Bracken on his time with Reading Partners.

Journalist Matt Bracken, Spotlighting the ‘Underdog’

“I want to encourage everyone to look for volunteering opportunities around your community. It does not certainly have to be with Reading Partners or literacy tutoring or anything like that because everybody has different skills and interests. Volunteering is being a part of your community and leaving it better than you found it.”

Those words are from journalist Matt Bracken who’s from Michigan, USA and his schooling is in the area of journalism.  He commutes long distances to tutor literacy for at-risk students.

Matt began his journalism career with the Baltimore Sun where he started as a sports producer, writer and editor.  He transitioned into the director of audience engagement because of his increasing interest in a multitude of topics that make up a metropolitan city.  He called this job a jack-of-all-trades.

His philosophy is to understand the audience, but most particularly the underserved.  Because of this philosophy he has spotlighted historical neighborhoods. There was an audience for it.  Digging into the archives had an element of intrigue and interest for Matt.

Telling stories that might have been overlooked within the community were sought out by Matt and he told the ‘underdog’ stories that resonate with people.   Human interest stories.

While working for the Baltimore Sun, Matt found that his employer allotted time during the week for journalists to dive into their community and volunteer.  Matt has always loved education and he believes strongly in helping struggling readers to succeed.  He found a niche in literacy tutoring.

Struggling readers find support from journalist Matt Bracken

The schools he served in the Baltimore area did not have any structured program at first but the teachers provided literacy plans and guidance to Matt.  Matt served within a low-achieving district.

Later he found a national program, Reading Partners.  Check out their website and learn more on tutoring or bringing the program to your USA school.

If you are interested in a literacy tutoring program within your own country but are not sure where to look, I can help you and am happy to help you.  Just drop me a comment or an email.

Reading Partners applies research-based best practices.

Matt provided literacy instruction as a volunteer with Reading Partners in the Baltimore area for several years.  One of the advantages for the struggling readers was that those students had a consistent tutor.  He was assigned his same students from early childhood up through to the sixth grade when Matt moved and took up residency in Washington, D.C..

Literacy instruction remains an important service for Matt and as luck would have it Matt’s new employer also allotted volunteer hours.

Well, the luck of this Irishman was two-fold!  Reading Partners was partnering with Washington, D.C. schools and Matt transferred his services from Baltimore to D.C.

He was given a list of the schools, their location, and the percentage of at-risk students at each school.

Sure he could have chosen a school in his area that would be a hop and skip with regard to transportation, but he chose a school with high need for tutors in a district that takes several metro trains to get there.  Certainly not an easy commute and also very time consuming.

Journalist Matt Bracken commutes far and wide to unlock student potential

What I find awesome about Matt Bracken is that he didn’t have to volunteer.  He chooses to tutor.  Plus, Matt is really young and he takes time to commute and prepare when he could be joining friends.  I commend Matt for the time he is spending with the children in literacy.

“Yah.  There are schools in more affluent neighborhoods and much more convenient for me.  I picked a school that has one of the highest levels of need in Southeast D.C.  It’s a famous neighborhood in the city but it gets short changed a bit.  The neighborhood is a  fascinating place for me.  It’s a a wonderful historical neighborhood and it’s neat to see the changes that have gone on.”

Matt does not see his volunteer work as a service but rather an opportunity.  “It’s an opportunity to be a part of a community that would never even be in my path.  There are passionate people trying to make their community better and my tutoring allowed me to see that.”

I am lucky and I think other people should be as lucky to be able to see a place that does need a little bit more love.

“Your show is wonderful Catherine because it highlights different positive elements that cover a really broad spectrum of things to make a difference in this world. And I feel the same way about volunteer working.  I’m a part of a community and I’m leaving it better than I found it.”

Check out some of Matt Bracken’s journalism, here.

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