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Literacy Program Reports Stellar Results


Last year, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education at St. John Fisher College received a $20,000 grant from the First Niagara Bank Foundation to establish an After-School Literacy Mentorship Program at two Rochester-area schools.

The program has been led by Dr. Wendy Paterson, dean of the School of Education, and Dr. Kathy Broikou, director of the M.S. in Literacy Education program. The Nathaniel Rochester School #3 and the Greece Community Family Center participated in the program, and volunteers from the First Niagara Bank Foundation were trained by graduate students and faculty at Fisher to work with children to develop reading and writing skills. The program ran from January through June, and organizers assessed the program results in late August.

The Greece Community Family Center in the Greece Central School District, which provides classes and support for families who are new to the country, offered classes in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), allowing parents and their children to attend a program that provides services in learning the English language and support acclimating to their new country and culture. The mentor from First Niagara Bank had the opportunity to work with children ranging in age from six to 16, but spent most time with two older students. The mentor helped with homework, and was successful in motivating the students to take on schoolwork that would have been overwhelming for them without adult support. Teachers reported that the First Niagara Bank mentor "provided an excellent scaffold for building the students' confidence in content-area vocabulary and tasks, especially in math and science."

In addition to the feedback from the teachers, the district supervisor of the program reported that the students in this program who worked with the First Niagara Bank mentor made "extraordinary gains and scored well beyond expectations on the proficiency exam."

Nathaniel Rochester School #3 in the Rochester City School District is a community-based school that provides services for children in kindergarten through eighth grade. The range of ages that are enrolled at School #3 provides a unique environment where a young child grows into a young adult in the same school building. Children ages 4-16 coexist in an atmosphere of support, encouragement, and success.

The mentor from First Niagara Bank who volunteered at School #3 had the opportunity to work with a first-grade boy. According to Broikou, prior to the mentor beginning her work, the student was achieving below grade level. The classroom teacher had reported concerns about the boy's emotional, social, and academic growth in school, and had just referred him for help through the school's Problem Solving Team. The mentor did a variety of activities with the student, including practice reading through fun and engaging activities, and additional work with words. Furthermore, she engaged in numerous "read alouds" with the student to support his background knowledge and vocabulary and to model different strategies to use while reading.

"The teacher and literacy specialist reported that the student loved the one-on-one time with the mentor, and were thrilled to find that he ended the year reading above grade level," said Broikou.

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