Author addresses racism |

Author addresses racism

On any given day at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, 87-year olds sit down to chat with nine year-olds.

The Student Tutoring Achievement for Reading (STAR) program at Jeremy Ranch, now in its seventh year, has reached an apex thanks to Elaine Jolley’s leadership. Designed by the state, STAR is meant to give students who are slightly behind in reading a way to accelerate their learning by pairing struggling readers with volunteer mentors.

Jolley took control of the program five years ago, even though she has been a resident of Park City for the past 20. At first, Jolley ran the STAR program for several schools, but as it became more popular, she had to focus her efforts on Jeremy Ranch. Michele Wallace, Jeremy Ranch Principal, said STAR "started as a very small program the reason the program continued to be successful is because of (Jolley’s) leadership."

Initially, the STAR program at Jeremy Ranch met some resistance among students and teachers. Although a few volunteers were willing to come to school and give their time to the students, teachers were reluctant to tender their students to the program. Successful STAR programs, however, require teachers to identify the students with a marked need for improvement.

Jolley actively recruited volunteers when she first took the job and immediately grew the number involved. She took out newspaper ads, posted bulletin board messages and spread the word throughout the community. Now, the STAR program at Jeremy counts around 24 volunteers in its ranks, enough for every student to have one personal mentor.

Typically students use these sessions to read to their mentors. They go through difficult words and use card games to help build their spelling ability. According to some of their teachers, students look forward to the sessions all week. Their reading scores on state tests and their performance in class has improved across the board, but more than anything else these students benefit from the advice imparted to them by their mentors. They do everything from improve their vocabulary to practice a stronger handshake.

Last week, in the final few days of the program, the students gave hand-made cards to their tutors as thanks for their hard work. Many of the cards described the children’s favorite reading moments and books. Over time, said Jolley, she has "seen the positive relationships develop," between the students and their tutors.

The students that take advantage of the program are as diverse as the volunteers who help them. Only a few of the 60 students are English Language Learners, while the rest just need an additional push and some one-on-one time to improve their skills. Some of the students, more than anything else, really just need the help focusing on their studies. Their tutors help provide that focus.

Mary Strohl, a fourth-grader STAR, said of her tutor, Jolley, and the program, "I think she’s nice and she helps me a lot in reading and writing." For more information, or to volunteer as a tutor, contact Elaine Jolley at Jeremy Ranch at (435) 645-5670.

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