Story by Emily Tozer
A group of Drake University students are giving back an hour a week through a literacy and mentoring organization called Everybody Wins! Iowa.
Melanie Hopkins, the volunteer coordinator, said they do it here because they “see a need for it in the community.” The group of Drake students act as mentors to students who are reading below grade level, who are English-Language Learners or who show a need for a mentor.
Studies have shown incarceration is correlated with reading levels, and those who are substantially behind their grade reading levels are more likely to end up spending time in prison.
“Reading ties into a lot of other areas in a student’s life,” Hopkins said.
Hopkins believes that having another positive adult influence available will be beneficial for the children involved in the program.
First-year Lexi Richter said she got involved after working with the program with her First-year Seminar.
“When we did it with FYS, I really enjoyed it, and I wanted to get involved with the community, and I thought it was a cool way to do it,” Richter said.
When Richter was younger, she was also involved in a similar program and remembers it as being “the coolest thing in the world” for her.
Richter said, she “hope(s) to give a student someone who can be there for them.”
For anyone interested in the programs, Richter adds that “it’s probably the most fun hour you’ll have all week and you can a bigger influence on these kids than anybody your own age.”
Hopkins loves seeing students in the program turn into mentors themselves when they get older, seeing how far students are able to come.
“I love seeing the programs in work, seeing the students act excited on Fridays and seeing kids who think they’re not good readers improve their reading,” Hopkins said.
One girl in the program seems to be the very epitome of that dream. As she sat in the area set aside for the program, she saw one of Drake’s FYS groups walking past the windows and proceeded to jump up and down, saying “Yay! The Drake kids are here! They’re here!” Which set off a chain reaction of all the other kids stopping whatever they were doing as they turned towards the entrance in eager anticipation.
When asked why she liked the Drake students, the girl said “because they’re nice, and they play with us, and they read to us.”
Such a little effort on the volunteers’ part has resulted in a major admiration of Drake students for at least this one child. When asked if she planned on going to Drake when she got older, she said no because she’s not a very good reader. She’s still young and has a few more years with Everybody Wins! Iowa to change that.