Heather Pellicone is the principal of South Street Elementary, the school Jericho partners with for its Reading Buddy program. With 54% of its 406 students listed as English language learners, 69% speaking a language other than English at home, and 77% receiving free or reduced meals, South Street faces considerable challenges, and falls below the state average in reading scores. But more than that… because of socio-economic difficulties, these students come to school with emotional and other challenges. Jericho’s volunteers are currently working with 35 of these students, four mornings a week, helping them read. While they are indeed succeeding at that, they are doing so much more.
“Some of our kids come bouncing through the doors every morning. Others look a little withdrawn, shoulders slumped, and others are angry and their fists are clenched. Why? Many have just left their homes, angry, sad and deflated that no one helped them with their homework last night. Or they may not be sure the next time they may get to speak with a family member who may be incarcerated or living in another country.
How can we expect them to tackle the common core curriculum? Through love, consistency and time. And that is what our Reading Buddy program does for these students. Volunteers come to make the long-lasting connection with these students. And yes, they work on reading skills… but, more importantly, as you circulate around, you hear the buzz of casual conversation – the simple question of “how are you today?” or a statement of praise like, “I love the bow in your hair!” The relationship that started out as raising test scores, is now so much more. And what our students need are adult role models. Adults that they can count on. Adult that show up with sole purpose of giving a child direct attention. Adults that provide them with consistency and support they so crave, but lack in their home environment. A Reading Buddy is a mentor that impacts them in a way we can only begin to imagine. A Reading Buddy could be the one that sets them on the trajectory of success and confidence.”