Read about Lee Ann Stein's "Shine Into Reading" program.
As a volunteer, Lee Ann Stein received a grant to provide one-on-one reading instruction in her daughter's elementary school library.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Lee Ann: Volunteering at my daughter Kaelyn's school. I took the Prichard Committee's training and implemented a project that I received a $500 grant for.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Lee Ann: Our reading program is called "Shine Into Reading". We are located at Burns Elementary School in Owensboro, Ky.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Lee Ann: I have a reading corner in the library. I, along with volunteers, work with the children who are struggling with reading. We use Hooked on Phonics. Last year I had a child who at the end of his kindergarten year could not even recognize the letter "A". After six weeks he knew all the letters of the alphabet. My main focus is to have these kids get one-on-one attention, and it is working. The kids love coming to the "reading corner" and getting the extra special attention. The school is really starting to believe in this. Now I have employees of the school come up to me and say things like, "There's a boy in the 5th grade that is really struggling with his reading. Could you help him?" Those are the ones that really touch my heart because they have less of a chance of getting it. The 5th grader was so far behind he didn't have any hope. But after a few sessions with the Hooked on Phonics I am beginning to see a little hope in his eyes.
What inspired you to get involved?
Lee Ann: I have been volunteering at my child's school since she was in kindergarten. I began volunteering because I wanted to be close to her and so that I would know more about what was going on with her education. As the years went by I began noticing the kids who had a hard time with learning, the ones that didn't have all the advantages of other children, and this was really affecting me. I began to think, "What can I do to help these children."
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Lee Ann: I heard about the Prichard Committee . They had an institute for Parent Leadership. I heard that I could get $500 for my school. I loved that idea, so I jumped right in. Of course, it was much more involved than I realized. I had to go 3 weekends for intense training. When that was over, I then had to do research and come up with a project and have it approved.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Lee Ann: The best thing about my experience is watching the children as they start to believe in themselves. I truly believe in them. I believe that each one of them can learn and overcome the struggles that keep them from learning, and I think they feel that from me. I love having this special bond with these children.
What is/was the hardest part?
Lee Ann: The hardest part, of course, is finding volunteers to help me. But also I struggle with juggling the times my volunteers can come with the times that the teachers will allow the students to come. It is very important for them not to miss their other lessons in the classroom, so that is a constant juggle. I have to make out schedules, and they are always changing. Another hard part is seeing the emotional needs of these children. I feel a strong sadness for a lot of them.
What was the biggest surprise?
Lee Ann: The way the program has taken off and the realization of the need. I didn't realize how many kids need help, and now many times I am feeling overwhelmed because I want to help them all and can't.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Lee Ann: That things are not always as easy as you think they are going to be, and that hard work pays off. I would have never believed that I could have pulled something like this off. I have never believed in myself. And that is how I have changed. I, like the kids in my program, have started to believe in myself.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Lee Ann: Just do it. It will change your life for the better. My whole life, I have felt like there was something more meaningful that I could be doing. I had this ache to help people. My life has led me here. It's like a hole has been filled.
© Foundation Center
All Rights Reserved.