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Valley Journals

Volunteer tutors make an impact on literacy

Nov 21, 2018 03:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Through the Great Leaps program at Midvale Elementary, tutors from Savage will come help schoolchildren with their reading. (Photo courtesy of Great Leaps website)

By Julie Slama | julie@mycityjournals.com

When Savage, an international logistics, transportation and materials handling company, moved its service center to Midvale, part of the company’s culture was to be a good neighbor.

“Savage has a long history of partnering with United Way so when we moved into Midvale, we wanted to help out with our community,” said Rebecca Warner, Savage treasury and reporting manager. “We learned Midvale Elementary had several projects, but this one fit both their needs and ours.”

This project is the Great Leaps literacy program, and already, it’s making great leaps, Warner said.

“We’ve had a great start building relationships and helping students with their sight words, reading and comprehension. The students I’ve worked with did really well,” said Warner, who is coordinating the volunteer tutoring effort. “Working with students one-on-one on improving their reading skills, I feel like we’re really doing some good.”

Beginning in November, several Midvale Elementary second-, fourth- and fifth-grade students are having the opportunity to develop fast and accurate responses with comprehension of the material they read, thanks to the Great Leaps literacy program and volunteers from Savage. 

“This is an evidence-based literacy program that has students learn phonics and words and phrases so when they read a story, they’re able to comprehend it without stopping to look up vocabulary,” said Heidi Sanger, Midvale Elementary community school facilitator. “As a result, their fluency level will increase.”

To tutor the students, many who are just below being on grade-level reading, volunteers from Savage come to work with students for 10 minutes at a time. While the volunteers may rotate between morning and afternoon shifts, the same students will work with them three times each week.

“The kids loved it,” Sanger said after the first day volunteers worked with them. “They worked on phonics, sight words or phrases and then, read a short story and answered comprehension questions. It’s fun, fast and Great Leaps has been proven effective.”

Sanger said when students master the reading without mistakes and are able to answer the questions, they progress to another story.

“It’s very individualized and depends on the students as to how fast they move on,” she said. “The volunteers are providing positive encouragement and motivation, which gives students more confidence.”

Warner said that it offers a positive volunteer experience for Savage employees.

“It was fun, but it may be a different experience for some volunteers who haven’t helped in their own children’s schools or may not have children. We have opened it up to our entire office in Midvale of 200 team members and some are really gung-ho and excited. All the volunteer spots for November and December were filled up really fast,” she said.

She added that after November, they will re-evaluate how the tutoring is going with Midvale Elementary to see if it will expand to include more students and volunteers. Savage has committed to tutoring students in the Great Leaps program for this school year.

Mike Koch, Savage business manager and Savage committee chair with the United Way partnership, said part of the reason the company decided to tutor Midvale school children was that it will have a lasting impact, which ties into Savage’s vision.

“There will be a real difference, with measurable results,” he said. “We wanted to make a difference where there will be long-term results that impact our community. It’s a program based on scientific-proven principles that has shown real progress. It’s new to us and new to Midvale. I’d love to see it be successful at Midvale Elementary.”