By Tim Leeds
Members of the Havre AmeriCorps Montana Reads Program have just finished their third session of this year's tutoring Lincoln-McKinley students in reading skills.
Margaret Kucera, the program coordinator at Montana State University-Northern, said the program has been pretty successful. She said one example was a child who couldn't read at all or tell time when they began, but by the end of the sessions could both read and tell time.
Kucera said the first- through third-grade teachers involved, Ilene St. Marks, Kathy Sather, Erin Hamblock, Judy Ireland, Dusty Toth and Cindi Leeds, did pre- and post-assessments of the students and there was significant improvement in most of the students. Lincoln-McKinley Principal Karen Swenson was also involved in the planning and conducting of this year's program.
Participants in this year's program included Sabrina Stanger, Tiffany Lowder and Jane Linewand, who have completed their two-year terms of service, and Rebekah Fogel, Jason Boyd and Eric Boyd, who will return to the program next year. Kucera said they receive a monthly stipend while working in the program and qualify for the education award to help pay for student loans or for college expenses once their term is done.
Other Northern students volunteered their time to the program this year, including Tammy Lehman, Holly Johnstone, Hannah Nutting, Carrie Livesay, Samaria Kirby, Jackie Bergren, Heidi Hinckley and Alesha Chaney.
The group had three seven-week sessions at Lincoln-McKinley, working with children in first- second- and third-grade to bring them up to reading at their grade level by completion of the third-grade. The first session started last October, with the last session finishing up last week.
The sessions were held in the school library Mondays and Tuesdays, with each grade tutored in its own session. They also conducted a homework and study skills program at Lincoln-McKinley in addition to the Montana Reads program to help the students with their study skills and homework.
Kucera said this was the first year they went off campus with the program. She said they had done the tutoring on campus before. This way they are able to reach more of the students who need help with their reading and studying skills, she said.
"The truly needy," Kucera said.
They are in the process of writing some grants for the program right now, Kucera said. She said they want to start a family literacy program, to get all of the family involved in getting the kids to read.
The activities they do right now is under the umbrella of AmeriCorps, Kucera said. All of their money comes through that program.
AmeriCorps, a national service initiative signed into law by President William Clinton early in his term, is a service group modeled after the Peace Corps. It has the goal of addressing needs in education, public safety and human and environmental needs on the local level. Most of the work done by the organization is performed by university and community volunteers.
More than 175,000 volunteers had participated in AmeriCorps since it began in 1994. There are about 40,000 volunteers working in the program each year, with a record 50,000 in 2000, working on projects including education, community improvement and disaster relief.
President Bush has signed continued funding for the program into law this year. The organization has a membership drive underway to have a record 50,000 participants this year.
Kucera said AmeriCorps' goal is to put themselves out of business. She said, for example, with the Montana Reads program in Havre, they could eventually have organizations in the community partnering with the university to provide the service.
Kucera said anyone wanting more information about the program or to volunteer for it can call her at 265-3700, ext. 3168.
On the 'net: AmeriCorps: http://www.americorps.org