Ravell Call, Deseret News
MILLCREEK — Gov. Gary Herbert visited students at James E. Moss Elementary on Tuesday to announce the expansion of a statewide tutoring program aimed at helping students read at grade level and graduate high school.
The Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism has received a $1.2 million grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Herbert announced, which will allow the number of students tutored in the Read Graduate Succeed program to effectively double.
Last year, the program served roughly 4,000 students, 85 percent of whom tested on grade level for reading proficiency, Herbert said. With the $1.2 million grant, the number of students served is expected to increase to 8,000 students with an added emphasis on preparing secondary students for graduation.
"We want to ensure that junior high and high school students have a clear pathway to on-time high school graduation," the governor said. "We want to make sure people don’t get behind. It’s so much harder to catch up."
LaDawn Stoddard, director of the Utah Commission on Service and Volunteerism, said the grant will allow for members of the Utah AmeriCorps Literacy Initiative to be placed in 123 schools around the state. The volunteers will work in the schools to coordinate and train volunteers, who will then mentor and tutor students in a six- to eight-week program aimed at improving proficiency.
"They're tracking very closely the progress of students," Stoddard said. "The goal is to get them on grade level."
The Read Graduate Succeed program is also supported by the United Way and Read Today, as well as corporate partners Questar, the Larry H. Miller Group and Prosperity 2020.
"We're happy to be a part of this," said Jay Francis, executive vice president of the Larry H. Miller Group. "When we were first approached and Gail (Miller) and I looked at it, we thought this is a great way to get our employees involved in the community."
Francis said since partnering with the program, more than 100 Larry H. Miller Group employees have volunteered to read with children in schools from Ogden to Provo.
"If someone is struggling with reading, they're going to struggle with a lot of other things, so we feel like this is a great program," he said. "We're grateful for this opportunity. We hope we'll make a difference in the community by doing this."
Herbert described the goal of increased literacy as one that requires the efforts of students, teachers, parents and the community. He ended his remarks by encouraging all Utahns to find time to volunteer in schools.
"For those who have yet to volunteer, we ask you to come and find a way to participate," he said. "We ask everybody in Utah, look for ways to volunteer, particularly to help our educational achievement in the state. I encourage you to get involved today."
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