For 12 weeks, smiling, excited children (from Kindergarten through fifth grade), their families and a group of caring, dedicated volunteers come together at Willow Springs Elementary School.
The attending students are those deemed to be in need of extra support by their teachers. They come every Thursday from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m. for individual attention to improve their reading skills.
The school’s program has been in progress since Jan. 24 and will end April 25. This outreach program was designed as part of their School Improvement Plan by partnering with “Read and Feed,” an already vital program reaching kids through mobile classrooms near their homes.
Read and Feed provides the “training, instructional materials, prizes and funds the meals for the students.”
The Fuquay-Varina Junior Women’s Club sponsors meals for the volunteers and families, and serves each Thursday. The Golden Corral in Cary ,thanks to Dave McAdoo, the restaurant’s general manager, provides delicious meals and desserts at a reduced cost for the weekly program.
Students enjoy the meals from the macaroni and cheese to the cookies.
Additional perks to the system: Each time a child comes to Read and Feed, they receive three free brand new books, donated by Barnes and Noble and Scholastic Books. Kids also earn prizes of their choosing when they arrive on time, with their book bag, show respect and write a summary about something they read the previous week.
There are more than a few accomplishments achieved here.
The families eat a good meal together. Parents have the opportunity to observe how they can help their sons and daughters learn to read. Students improve their reading and writing skills.
Younger siblings get a good feeling about going to school. Volunteers leave with a sense of satisfaction at having been a part of improving the students’ reading abilities and potentially their futures.
Luanne Hettich, the school counselor and coordinator of the on-site program said, “I love watching families eat a meal together and seeing students be excited about reading.”
She also said the volunteers’ dedication to the students is “heart-warming” and it’s the very reason the program is successful.
Betty Raab, school media specialist, said, “Even after a full day of teaching, I leave the school on Thursday evenings feeling energized.”
The youngest volunteer is Autumn Rice, who after her classes in seventh grade and playing soft ball, volunteers her time to help teach reading skills at her old elementary school.
When one or more groups of people care so much for others and work together to make special things happen, everyone involved comes away with a sense of accomplishment, pride and a contentment in knowing they had a part in changing the lives of others for the better.