Making An Impact, One Word At A Time

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October 18, 2012 // Community

Article Written By:  Monica Kreiger| Marketing Team Leader | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Children who can’t read will someday be adults who can’t read.

Childhood illiteracy is something we don’t often think about but it’s a real problem right here in our own city. Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Schools of Hope works to combat the problem of illiteracy in our schools with their In School Tutoring program and Mercantile employees are once again stepping up to the plate as mentors.

It’s definitely a cause that our mentors are committed to. They work consistently for the entire school year with the same child in grades 1st through 3rd at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. Mentors spend 30 minutes each week working with their student on improving their reading skills and encouraging them in their studies.

As a past mentor, I was shocked to learn that the only book in some of the student’s homes was a phone book. Myself a mother of a young child (who was only 3 at the time and not yet able to read) I thought about the rows of books that lined her bookshelf. At that moment I realized how important the gift of reading is in the life of a child.

Another way Mercantile employees support the Schools of Hope program is by donating school supplies at the beginning of the school year to the Schools of Hope Stuff the Bus program. Over 70% of children in the Grand Rapids, Godfrey-Lee, Godwin and Cedar Springs school districts qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning their parents often can’t provide the school supplies they need to succeed. Children look forward to the start of the school year and arriving with new supplies, but many families in our area can’t afford even the basic notebooks and pencils. That’s where we come in, by donating pencils, notebooks, glue and crayons. It seems simple to most people, but it really does help to provide these children with a fresh start for the school year.

In the words of a child involved with Schools of Hope:

“I never used to read books. I didn’t even like reading, but now I enjoy reading. I feel good about myself because I learned how to read better all because of you. It is fun reading with a mentor because they help you solve stuff. Thank you for teaching me how to read better.”

 For more information on how you can become a Schools of Hope Mentor, visit their website.

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