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February 19, 2015

Starting a new chapter and making a difference

Liz grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and came to South Carolina to attend the University of South Carolina. A few years later, Liz found herself working full-time for the Charleston Regional Business Journal.

“I find myself using the phrase ‘I’m busy’ quite often. It is not an exaggeration and I am not alone in using it. It seems to be the American mantra,” she says. “So, when I moved to Charleston I started evaluating what made me so ‘busy’ and realized that not one of my activities was working toward making my community a better place.”

In her search for a local nonprofit to volunteer with, Liz stumbled across Reading Partners. She connected with Reading Partners’ mission and vision on a personal level.

“I was blessed to grow-up with my parents reading to me every night. I was the kid who crammed books in my backpack until it was splitting at the seams. I filled notebooks and wrote stories and read everything I could get my hands on,” she remembered. “I saw books as a chance to experience completely different worlds and lives. I wanted to share this joy for words and reading and writing with kids in Charleston.”

Getting Started

Liz was nervous and excited to meet her student Shaiiava when she first entered the reading center at Sanders-Clyde. Liz was nervous because she did not come in with a teaching background, “but my student’s nervousness and eagerness equaled my own,” Liz remembers.

From that day on Shaiiava and Liz continued to work together for one hour each week. LIz admits “[t]here were difficult times, like when my student had trouble grasping a new concept or when she was so tired she could barely keep her eyes open. We worked through them.”

Liz and Shaiiava’s bond grew throughout the semester and, slowly, both Liz and her student started to see amazing results. “I felt proud when Shaiiava completed several book reports and became motivated to read more on her own time,” says Liz. “I was excited when she grasped a new concept on her own. I was overjoyed to learn that at the halfway point in the year, her reading level had improved by more than an entire grade level.”

In fact, Shaiiava had both accelerated her rate of learning and narrowed her achievement gap by mid year.

The Power of Time

Philanthropy, in the form of time, is powerful. Liz’s busy schedule becomes more meaningful when she builds in time to empower a child to read.

My favorite moments are not measured by tests, book reports or worksheets. It is when she reads out loud using lots of expression. It is when I have her rapt attention because a story is better than anything else going on in the classroom. It is when she cannot stop talking about how good a book was.

“That is when I feel like I’m making a difference. Kids like to have fun, and when reading becomes a part of that, it sticks. A love for reading is powerful – and the opportunities that lends are limitless.”

 

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