United Way of the Lowcountry wins $234,000 Americorps grant - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

United Way of the Lowcountry gets $234,000 Americorps grant

United Way of the Lowcountry wins $234,000 Americorps grant

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Kindergarten through third grade is the critical timeframe when children learn to read.

The challenge is making sure they don't fall behind on their reading skills.

Studies show students could consider dropping out of school as early as fourth grade if they can't read up to speed.

With the help of Americorps, the United Way of the Lowcountry is hoping to change that through their early grade reading initiative.

"I love to read about dinosaurs, that's non-fiction and snakes," said Carolina Belocon.

"I like to read a bunch of books all day and I like scary books," added Fernando Hernandez.

These first graders clearly love to read.

But the trick is keeping students interested in reading as they get older.

That's the challenge the United Way of the Lowcountry taking on with their early grade reading initiative program.

"Our major goal is to reduce the high school dropout rate by 50% in ten years," said Bethany Marcinkowski, Director of Education Impac.t

And they're on track.

In only one year, the early grade reading initiative program has had a 97% success rate in Beaufort County schools and a 98% rate in Jasper County.

Volunteers typically work one-on-one with students two to three times a week for 30 minutes.

But with a new $234,000 Americorps grant, the United Way of the Lowcountry will be able to dramatically expand their efforts.

"They'll be providing more services, they'll be tutoring more students and it enables us to be able to almost triple the amount of students that we would ordinarily be touching in each of these schools," said Deborah Edmondson, Americorps Program Director.

The United Way of the Lowcountry still needs 12 more volunteers to sign up for its Americorps grant program.

But to be fully effective at meeting their goal, they'll need 600 volunteers to sign up.

If you would like more information on the United Way of the Lowcountry's partnership with Americorps, visit our website, wtoc.com, under the Lowcountry community page.

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