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Last Updated: 04/12/2018


 Article of Interest - Literacy

Campaign recruits literacy volunteers
Mentors are needed to help elementary students in Lansing
by James McCurtis Jr., Lansing State Journal, August 23, 2002

More than 1,000 adult volunteers are needed to help Lansing's elementary students learn to read.

The Lansing School District and Capital Area Youth Alliance on Thursday held their second yearly "Power of an Hour" kickoff breakfast in the state House Office Building to spread the word.

About 80 community and business leaders attended the recruiting campaign for the Helping One Student to Succeed program.

"We're only asking for one hour a week," said Erin Skelly-Smith, associate director of elementary programs at the Capital Area Youth Alliance.

"We hope that community leaders, companies and local businesses will donate that time to help local area students."

HOSTS, a nationwide program founded in 1971, says it has helped more than 1 million children succeed in reading, writing, vocabulary, math, critical thinking and study skills.

The Lansing School District focuses on the reading aspect.

HOSTS started in Lansing as a pilot program at Walnut Elementary School in 1992. The program served four schools in the district until last year, when it expanded to 19 elementary schools.

Students are selected to participate based on their test scores, Skelly-Smith said.

Teachers then provide the mentor with a learning plan for the student.

About 200 students were paired with mentors last year. Of those, 166 increased their reading skill levels by at least one grade level and 86 improved their skill levels by more than two grade levels, officials said.

This year, CAYA and the school district need more than 1,140 volunteers to mentor nearly 300 students. Because the kids receive tutoring four days a week, many of them need multiple mentors.

"Last year we helped 10 students per school," Skelly-Smith said. "This year we're helping 15 students at each school, so we need more volunteers to donate at least a minimum of an hour each week."

Lansing's Jeremy Deming, 27, served as mentor to four students last year, spending 30 minutes a week with each. He plans to take on the same amount this school year.

He helps students read a different book each week and plays word games with them to improve their vocabulary and comprehension.

"It gives me so much pleasure to help them better understand a book," he said. "It really boosts your spirits."

Deming, vice president of finance and administration at the Boys and Girls Club in Lansing, said he's going to tell his co-workers about the program.

"It's very important to me that everyone knows about the HOSTS program even if they don't do it," Deming said. "They can at least spread the words to others."

Contact James McCurtis Jr. at 377-1046 or

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