Monsters, dinosaurs, Pocahontas and Pinocchio were all part of the conversation as 200 Boys & Girls Club youth participated in United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s Brewer’s Hill Literacy Day at Carver Academy.
Volunteer college interns from nine Milwaukee companies were paired with youth ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade for reading, theater activities with First Stage and playground activities at the new “Born Learning Trail” installed by United Way.
The event, which also took place at COA Youth & Family Centers, 909 E. Garfield Ave., was the official launch of United Way of Greater Milwaukee’s effort to recruit 3,000 volunteer readers, tutors and mentors by 2015.
“We wanted to do something locally in our neighborhood to kick off the effort,” said Maressa Sullivan, United Way public relations specialist. United Way of Greater Milwaukee is headquartered in Brewer’s Hill.
Marquette University student Lauren Diaz, 21, decided to volunteer for the day because, she said, childhood education and literacy are things “that not only Rockwell cares about, but I’m interested in as well.” Diaz is an intern at Rockwell.
Diaz was paired with a 4-year-old kindergartener who “was a little quiet at first, but then very active and very fun,” she said. The two read “Pinocchio” together. “She thought it was funny when the nose grew,” said Diaz. “She had a great time. I had a great time helping her out.”
The initiative was created in response to United Way Worldwide’s 2008 Campaign for the Common Good. The campaign’s goal is to cut in half the number of young people who drop out of high school by 2018 by recruiting one million volunteer readers, tutors and mentors.
“They are agencies that can take on a large capacity of volunteers,” said Karissa Kleven, United Way marketing and communications specialist. “What’s unique about this initiative is it’s very much a collaborative effort,” she said.
Next Door Foundation will oversee volunteer readers, Interfaith will oversee volunteer tutors and Big Brothers Big Sisters will oversee volunteer mentors, said Julie Rothwell, United Way health portfolio manager. Each of the volunteer opportunitieshas a different time commitment.
“Whether you have an hour a day or an hour a week or an hour a month, you can significantly impact a child’s reading ability and academic performance and instill a lifelong love of learning,” said Nicole Angresano, United Way vice president of community impact.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress, Milwaukee’s fourth- and eighth-grade students’ reading, mathematics and science scores ranked below the average score for 21 large cities.
“Research proves that caring volunteers working with students of all ages have the power to help kids boost academic achievement and put young people on track for a bright future,” said Angresano.
“The Reader-Tutor-Mentor Initiative is an opportunity for everyone in the community to make a difference in the life of a child. When more young people enter school ready to learn, read at grade level and graduate from high school, the entire community benefits,” she said.