United Way tutoring program expands with grant

info@islandpacket.comSeptember 5, 2013 


An effort to improve students' reading at eight local elementary schools has received a $234,000 boost to add 41 tutors.

United Way of the Lowcountry has been awarded a federal AmeriCorps grant to expand its tutoring program at six Beaufort County schools and two Jasper County schools for the 2013-2014 school year. The agency has set a goal of getting 80 percent of all fourth-graders at the schools reading on grade level by September 2016, says Deborah Edmondson, program director for the local AmeriCorps initiative.

The United Way provided a 24 percent match to the grant, bringing the total amount to $234,000. The money will be used to pay stipends for the 41 AmeriCorps tutors being added, as well as Edmondson's salary.

The AmeriCorps tutors will join about 200 local volunteers helping students at these elementary schools: Shanklin, St. Helena, Red Cedar, Pritchardville, Hardeeville, Ridgeland, Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts, and Hilton Head Island Early Childhood Education Center.

The United Way has hired all but 16 of the AmeriCorps tutors needed, Edmondson said.

The agency seeks those who can commit to providing 450 hours of tutoring. They will receive a stipend of $2,250 over nine months. If they complete the commitment, they will also receive an education award of $1,400 to be used toward college tuition or student loans. Parents and grandparents can also use the award for their children and grandchildren, Edmondson said.

She said the AmeriCorps tutors range in age from college students to retirees. Sixteen of them are students majoring in early childhood education or human services at the University of South Carolina Beaufort.

"We're looking to have a diverse group," she said.

The overall goal is to help 600 children improve their reading, she said, and the addition of the AmeriCorps tutors will help them reach an additional 400 kids. Last year, the program tutored 154 students, according to United Way.

"It's allowing us to expand our capacity to reach more students," Edmondson said.

The AmeriCorps tutors will also improve the overall administration of the initiative, United Way of the Lowcountry says.

"We feel that they will add a level of stability and dependability to an already-successful program," agency president Tina Gentry said in a news release.

The AmeriCorps grant is for three years, but must be applied for each year, Edmondson said.

Want to help?

To apply to become an AmeriCorps tutor for United Way of the Lowcountry's reading program, go to www.uwlowcountry.org to download an application. Phone: 843-982-3040. Deadline to apply: Sept. 16.

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