Important COVID-19 information: Our Programs | FAQs | Resources for families

Back to News

November 17, 2016

Tulsa mayor-elect challenges community to support local students by volunteering as Reading Partners

Originally published by Tulsa World.
By Arianna Pickard

Mayor-elect G.T. Bynum and local education officials are challenging community members to support Tulsa Public Schools students by volunteering at least one hour a week as a Reading Partner.

“Statistics show that a kid that is not reading on grade level by the time they’re in third grade is four times more likely to drop out of high school, and a high school dropout is expected to earn over a million dollars less in earning power over their lifetime,” Bynum said Thursday during a “Rally for Reading” at Rudisill Regional Library.

Recognizing that half of TPS third-graders are behind in reading, Bynum said local officials’ goal is to recruit 2,000 new volunteers to Reading Partners, a national nonprofit that works with the district to provide literacy tutoring by pairing volunteers with students.

“Despite the fact that we do not have the financial resources we need as an education system in Oklahoma, we have this resource: We have the people of Tulsa,” TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist said at the event. “So I know we’re going to get it done. We’re going to get it done with community support.”

Bynum was the first to accept the challenge by signing up as a volunteer, and he was followed by Gist and TPS Board President Lana Turner-Addison.

“I will tell you from personal experience, my wife Susan has been doing this for two years on top of being a law student, a mother of two and the spouse of someone who is off running for mayor,” Bynum said. “But she found the time to do it, and it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences of her life.”

Elizabeth Brands Vereecke, executive director of Reading Partners, said the organization’s volunteers “complement the dedicated and mission-driven teachers and school leaders and district officials.”

“The students that we work with — every single one of them can learn,” Vereecke said. “These students just have more barriers to learning than we would like children in our community to have.”

The number of TPS students tutored by Reading Partners has grown from 449 at nine school sites when the nonprofit came to Tulsa four years ago to 1,300 students at 24 sites this year, Vereecke said.

“All day across this city, every day, our teachers are working incredibly hard — including this week, which has been a tough week for our teachers,” Gist said. “But we know we can’t do it alone. We know that we need the support of our entire community, and it’s going to take all of us working together.”

To help fund the initiative, Ben Stewart with the George Kaiser Family Foundation announced that the organization will sponsor up to six reading centers by matching new donors’ contributions of $50,000 to individual centers, which are located inside the partnering schools.

Last year, 90 percent of the students in kindergarten through second grade who were paired with Reading Partners improved from reading up to 2½ years behind grade level to mastering the foundation of skills needed to read at grade level, Turner-Addison said.

“Education is a team effort, and when we support and elevate our children to help them to achieve their full potential, we are builders of brighter futures in the city of Tulsa,” Turner-Addison said. “Just as we all continue to benefit from the success of children, we also have a role to play in helping them to succeed.”

Latasha Lucas, a Broken Arrow resident who has volunteered with Reading Partners for two years, said she watched the first child she tutored at Key Elementary School grow from being shy and reserved to establishing “a confidence that she knew what she can do, and she was going to put in the work until she got it done.”

Lucas is a University of Oklahoma social work graduate student.

“No matter what happens on the bigger kind of political field, be it locally or nationally, I think we all know that the difference is made here on the ground, one person to the next, individual to individual,” she said.

  • 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

Site by Vermilion Credits Privacy Policy ©2024 Reading Partners