United Way of Utah County launched an education initiative for children recently at the “Matter of Words” exhibit in the BYU Museum of Arts.
The new initiative announced the EveryDay Learners program. It’s a community-based program to give support to children throughout Utah County. In a news release, United Way said they made the decision to focus specifically on children’s readiness for school after completing a community assessment earlier this year. Some of the trends, especially around third-grade reading levels, are starting to decline.
During the 2010-11 school year, nearly 30 percent of third grade students were not proficient at reading at their grade level. The trend continues throughout high school, with one in every 10 students not being able to graduate. Research from the Annie E. Casey Foundation concluded children who don’t read proficiently by third grade are at least four times more likely to leave school without a diploma. United Way of Utah County President and CEO, Bill Hulterstrom, said third grade is a specifically important year.
“Third-grade reading levels are an important indicator because that is when classrooms often switch from learning to read, to reading to learn,” Hulterstrom said.
In an effort to help children, the program EveryDay Learners announced their goal to recruit 10,000 volunteers to help in three specific areas: reading, tutoring and mentoring. Reading volunteers can help once or can commit to come on a regular basis, tutors will help youth with the programs they have in school, and mentors will work with a single child on a weekly basis.
Hulterstrom said there are two ways people can get involved: informal advocates and volunteers. The informal advocates are people who are doing things on their own like helping grandchildren with their homework, taking kids to special activities or simply talking to children about their favorite books. Volunteers are those who sign up with one of the many great programs in our community, he said.
Jim Evans, chair and board development for United Way of Utah County, said the reason he was able to attend and graduate from BYU was from the support he got while he was a child. He explained how he had a neighbor who took interest in him and helped him work on cars and how that was a skill he learned because someone cared.
“I was able to be blessed with opportunities,” Evans said. “We should make every day a learning day so that our children can have these same opportunities.”
Summer Valente, community engagement director, said United Way is going to have three-minute orientations in email to help train the registered volunteers on how to help the children in their community.
“We’ll make sure everyone will have the opportunity to become a volunteer if that is what they want to do,” Valente said. “We want this to be a positive and easy experience for everyone.”
To volunteer go to EveryDayLearners.org or visit unitedwayuc.org.