A special reading program concludes third year at WES

Post date: Jun 07, 2017 8:25:14 PM

At Wells Elementary School on May 26th, there was a special gathering of first-grade students with a class of WHS seniors. They were there to celebrate the culmination of another productive year for Teen Trendsetters™, an intensive reading mentoring program of the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy.

Beginning October of 2016, nineteen WHS seniors from Dawn Wentland’s World Literature class traveled on Fridays to the elementary school to help a group of younger students boost their reading skills, reading scores and confidence. During these 45-minute sessions, each senior was matched up with a first-grade student for tutoring.

According to the coordinator for Teen Trendsetters™ at WES, Literacy Specialist Bonnie Esty, about 60 students have benefited from this program since the fall of 2014.

The Barbara Bush Foundation offers participating schools in the program training for staff and teen volunteers, books, three non-fiction magazines from a Scholastic program called Brainstorm and ongoing monitoring of student reading data.

Seniors who commit to volunteer are trained to mentor elementary students. They also practice leadership skills by working one-on-one with a reader. With completion of this experience they receive up to 24 school credit hours in community service.

At the party on May 26th, the group heard comments from Bonnier Esty (who also wrote the grant that brought this program to WES) and watched a send-off video of photos taken throughout the year of the two groups working together. Students gave seniors a personalized card, a photo and a book for grads titled, Curious You, On Your Way. For their participation, first graders received 15 books to enjoy at home and add to their family library.

“It was productive,” said senior Joshua McFarland who participated this year. “It was a good experience for the kids and the seniors. I would definitely do it again.” McFarland noted that the younger students learned new words and gained knowledge about such topics as animals and plants from reading with a mentor.

The end of the first year for the Teen Trendsetters™ program at WES in 2015 was especially notable as participating students and their mentors were invited to attend Barbara Bush’s 90th birthday party and celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Barbara Bush Foundation held at St. Ann’s Church in Kennebunkport near the Bush home in June of 2015. At that time, these WOCSD students greeted guests to the party, made posters and received t-shirts.

WHS seniors participating in the Teen Trendsetters™ program at WES during the 2016-2017 school year. Top row (L to R): Emma Eicher, Sophie Ramini, Amber Bauer, Maryalissa Hebden, Elizabeth Curtis, Travis Kay and Joshua McFarland. Middle row: (l to r): Connor Hood, Alec Pinette, Ryan Barber, Cullen Cummings, and Olivia Muse. Front row (l to r) Colby Damren, Ryan Sousa, Jasmine Webber, Gwenyth Webber, Kaitlyn Schott, and Lauren Wilusz. Not pictured: Sarah Holdsworth, Allyson O'Brien and Christopher Spearin. Note: Jasmine Webber and Gwenyth Webber are juniors graduating early.