Laura_Headshotby Laura Holdrege
Roosevelt Elementary Read.Graduate.Succeed. Director

Reading, reading, reading. The sound of many reading voices fills the room, a soft humming background for the focused and engaged students working with their very own reading buddy. These reading buddy volunteers have become a special part of each Read.Graduate.Succeed. child’s week at Roosevelt Elementary School.

As the director of AmeriCorps program Read.Graudate.Succeed. at Roosevelt Elementary, I have the privilege of working alongside volunteers who have made the commitment to help students learn and grow through reading. These dedicated individuals show up each week, some even twice per week, to give individualized attention to our students who have fallen a couple grade levels behind. As Betsy Nazar, a third-year community volunteer, said, “I find it rewarding to teach a diverse population of students who come from different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. I keep coming back because of the idea that if I can teach one or two children to become readers who love to read, I will be a success.”

Betsy Nazar and student
Jenn Russell-Smith and student

At Roosevelt Elementary School, 175 students (one third of the student body) receive 30 minutes of one-on-one reading tutoring twice a week for the duration of the school year. Reading with their very own dedicated and engaged volunteer has become a weekly highlight for many students who cherish the attention they receive from their reading buddy. Of our 115 volunteers that tutor each week, 75 are high school students in the Latinos in Action and Leaders in Action programs from Cottonwood High School and Olympus High School. Forty of our volunteers come from the community at large.

The positive impact that these volunteers are having on their students is more than just the increase on standardized reading tests, which 79% of our Read.Graduate.Succeed. students achieve. The happy smiles and greetings exchanged between students and volunteers, and the eager questions of, “are you taking me for tutoring today!?” that I frequently am asked while walking through the hallways, both tell me the impact of the Read.Graduate.Succeed. program serves not only as an academic support, but as an investment in the youth from our community.


The time spent between volunteers and students is mutually rewarding. Jenn Russell-Smith, a first-year community volunteer, keeps coming back, “most definitely because of the kids – it’s so fun to work with them and see them progress.” Jenn would encourage you to become a tutor, as well! “It’s been fantastic for me to have the regular commitment twice a week. The time really flies by and I feel it is probably something that could even be done during a break at work a couple times a week.” Mike Watts, a third-year community volunteer, saw the strength and positive impact of the tutoring relationship he had developed with one of his first students when his student wore an “I like Mike” shirt he had purchased on the second to last day of tutoring. Betsy’s favorite tutoring memory is giving a second grade boy a book to take home and seeing how amazed and delighted he was to discover that Stuart Little was a book and not just a movie.


These story snippets are a mere fraction of the many memories students and volunteers have created together. Thank you to all our incredible volunteers for the support and dedication you show your students, you are making a difference!