For a student at the Allen County Primary Center, the start of his second grade year brought a need. The student was having difficulty with reading, more so than other students his age.
“Last year, I felt horrible about my reading,” explained the now third-grade student at the Primary Center, “My confidence level in reading wasn’t very good. I felt bad because I couldn’t read.”
His struggles were quickly identified by his teacher who shared her concern with Kathy Clark---the Points of Light (POL) contact at the Primary Center. The next step was to see that the student received a little extra help---help that would be provided by a Points of Light Partner.
The Points of Light Partner became a dedicated weekly fixture in the student’s life. The POL volunteer spent a few minutes with the student each week helping him with his reading and word recognition. By the end of the year, the student was reading at grade level.
“Now, I feel good about reading,’ the student said with a smile. “It helped me because somebody stepped up and helped. I was struggling with reading. Used to, I could only read yellow and orange (Accelerated Reader designations) books but now I can read blue and some green (AR books).”
This student’s successful transformation was due in part to the extra help he received each week. His story is shared by other students who are seeing improvement---improvements that not only are helping students read better but also feel good about themselves.
“Before I got help with reading, I would try to read but I struggled,” added a third grader who also worked with a POL volunteer last year. “After someone came to help me, I was able to get through the words I struggled on before. Now, my reading is good. I feel good about my reading but I need more help. We need more help so if you could help that would be great.”
“It (having a POL volunteer) really helped me to get better at reading all the words,’ added another young girl. “I think it (having a volunteer) would help other students.”
Officials with the Points of Light program are noticing improvement in students who are paired with a POL partner. Students are being strengthened academically and improving socially from knowing that someone cares enough to come and spend some time with them.
“Many children at the Primary Center need a mentor to eat lunch with them and spend time talking with them,” Clark explained. “Even adults who work can come during their lunch hour to eat with a child and be a mentor to them. Mentors talk with the children while they eat. They encourage them to do their best work and to have good behavior in class.”
The program not only benefits the students. Smiles are being brought to the faces of POL volunteers who enjoy the experience of seeing a twinkle come to a student’s eyes.
“I found it very rewarding,” noted POL volunteer Peggy Carter, speaking about her role as both a tutor and mentor during the first year of the POL program. “I helped him read books for about 20 minutes and then we would go to lunch. When I would go and knock on his door, I could see the biggest smile on his face. Then, when I would leave from lunch, he would give me a hug. He’s really opened up. It’s probably been more rewarding for me than it has been for him.”
The Points of Light Partnership was created in 2013 in an effort to help connect volunteers from local churches with students needing extra help in reading and math and/or with a child who just needed a positive mentor. The first year was labeled a “tremendous success” by school officials with the second year also producing very positive results---despite a slight decrease in volunteers. As year three gets underway, the need remains for volunteers.
“There is a great need in our schools, and we would love to have more volunteers to assist our students who require extra help and guidance,” explained Allen County School Superintendent Randall Jackson. “This can make a tremendous difference in the lives of many children, and I hope that the partnership program can accomplish great results.”
The POL program is seeing a greater need for volunteers. Several POL volunteers will not be returning this year due to declining health, a decision to become involve in other ways in the school district, or relocation outside of Allen County. Hence, the recruitment of new POL volunteers is underway.
“I know that so many good things will happen for these children in the future because of the influence that our volunteers have had on them,” noted Kathy Clark. “Anytime you are with a child, it is never, never wasted time. In the future, we will see a difference because you were there.”
Clark noted that she would like to see 70 volunteers to work with students at the Primary Center. POL Volunteers are also greatly needed at the Allen County Intermediate Center and the James E. Bazzell Middle School.
Serving as a Points of Light partner starts with attending an orientation and training session. The next POL orientation/training is scheduled for Tuesday, July 26. Persons interested in attending should contact Don Meador at 270-622-8551.
The prospective POL volunteer can learn more about the program, and if they elect to, complete the training all in one session. POL volunteers must agree to and pass a background check. Once the paperwork is completed, the POL volunteer is paired with a student at the school of their choice as much as possible.
At that point, the POL volunteer will be asked to come on a regular weekly basics to meet with their student. Consistency is stressed as the POL volunteer is asked to attempt to come each week.
For more information or to learn how to volunteer, contact the Allen County Board of Education at 270-618-3181 or Don Meador with Allen County Community Education at 270-622-4119.