WAWS Evaluation Finding #1: Learning From and Limitations of Financial Awards

To continually provide meaningful and evaluation-driven programming, Words Alive commenced the seven-month Dialogues in Action (DIA) project to analyze the impact of our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship (WAWS) program using a blended qualitative and quantitative evaluation model. Through this process, we had an opportunity to view our program through the lens of the scholarship recipients, past and present, and their mentors to determine opportunities to enhance our program delivery.

The aim of our evaluation was to ascertain the type of impact our program has on the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship recipients. We interviewed nine scholars who received various amounts of money through their participation in the program and six mentors who worked with students locally and remotely across several program years. In addition, we designed a questionnaire and sent it to the entire WAWS population (current and previous scholars) to collect data geared toward quantitative measurements.

Throughout this process, we identified eight findings and then brainstormed on ways we could update and improve the program based on these findings. Here is the first finding!

 An image of the 2017-2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship students at their financial literacy workshop at Finance Park.

An image of the 2017-2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship students at their financial literacy workshop at Finance Park.

More Than Money: Learning from and Limitations of financial awards

One might assume that the most impactful element of a scholarship program would be the money itself. However, our research found that the money awarded through the scholarship was not enough to negate the broader constraints of scholars’ financial circumstances nor to ensure a sense of financial security. That being said, a much-welcomed finding is that, as a group, scholars are thinking about and using money differently than they did before the program.

The scholarship program has several features intended to help students develop positive financial habits and feel more financially secure. Unlike many traditional scholarship programs, students can spend their awarded funds on living expenses such as rent, food, public transportation and child care. Money is disbursed monthly into personal checking accounts for greater access to cover these kinds of off-campus expenses and is often a student’s first time establishing a relationship with a bank. Additionally, students attend a financial literacy course led by experts in the field and are encouraged to work with their mentor on budgeting practices throughout the year.

Interviews with scholars who attended the workshop and/or addressed budgeting with their mentor described a better understanding of spending behaviors and different decision making about how to use their money.

About understanding their spending behavior, scholars said:

“[The financial workshop] made me realize how much I was wasting and how much I accumulate each month by going to restaurants instead of eating at home.” – Scholar, age 22


“I've been using a template that my mentor shared with me. I ask myself, ‘Do I really need this? Do I want to waste my money on this? Have I bought the right things first?’ I'm more aware of what I buy...For example, do I want to go to Jack in the Box and feed myself for an hour or go to the grocery store and feed myself for a week.” – Scholar, age 26

 A graphic featuring the above quote over a background of a few dollars and coins spread out over a counter.

A graphic featuring the above quote over a background of a few dollars and coins spread out over a counter.

About making money decisions differently, many scholars reported saving money for the first time in their lives, while others described strategizing their spending in other ways:

“I’m spending more of my money on school supplies and using free school resources for food. I’m saving scholarships for further down the line. I’m using that money for other materials, like in 1-2 years when I know I’ll have like a $5,000 tuition. So, I’m planning for that...I’m stretching my budgets to cover everything I need. I’ll spend 3 days researching something I need to buy to find the best price. I think these changes are feeding my motivation and keeping it alive. “– Scholar, age 20


“When I first got the scholarship, I was going through a tough time. I had just been kicked out of my living situation and I was living off the scholarship money. So, I learned how to budget money for necessities like food. I had my young daughter, so I had to think about her. I didn’t really have help, so I had to figure it out on my own and I was very young. This taught me how to save money and not spend on things you don’t need. And the scholarship money was limited so I learned how to extend it out.” – Scholar, age 18

Survey responses reflected a similar sentiment, in which after participating in the program, 85% scholars reported that they often or always use budgeting skills and tools to manage their financial situation than reported doing so before participating in the program.

 A graph titled “% of scholars who reported often or always using budgeting skills and tools.” It shows that 85% use budgeting skills after participation in the program and 15% use them before the program.

A graph titled “% of scholars who reported often or always using budgeting skills and tools.” It shows that 85% use budgeting skills after participation in the program and 15% use them before the program.

It wasn’t easy though, and in their eyes, consistency and discipline with budgeting remains a challenge:

“I go on and off with the financial habits. I try to tell myself, it’s okay just keep it in your head. I have done better budgeting in the past, but then I have an emotional breakdown and that makes all the habits go away. I want to get back to it...I just need more practice with budgeting.” – Scholar, age 22


“My [money] management fluctuates. I set up a savings account at a different bank not tied to the app on my phone where I can transfer money between accounts easily, and I didn't get the card. That way I have to make a special trip to the bank to take the money out, which I know I wouldn't want to do. I'll save up a lot, like $500 until recently, but then I'll dip into it for some expense and have to build it back up. Now I have $260+ in that account and I know I have to get back on track and not touch it.” – Scholar, age 26

We believe a contributing factor to success with budding budgeting skills may be the amount of money awarded to scholars. All scholars participating in the program have been impacted by extraordinary life circumstances and the financial hardship connected to those circumstances, and there was consensus among interviewed scholars that the amount of their financial award was not significant enough to cause lasting financial change or relief in the larger context of their lives. However, seen in the chart below, students who received larger financial awards reported feeling less stressed about their financial situation, as well as sticking to their personal budget and accessing financial resources outside their scholarship more often.

 A graph titled “Student confidence as compared by size of awarded scholarship funds.” The graph compares responses to statements such as “feeling less stress about their financial situation” based on how much money they receive.

A graph titled “Student confidence as compared by size of awarded scholarship funds.” The graph compares responses to statements such as “feeling less stress about their financial situation” based on how much money they receive.

Significance

A central goal of the WAWS program is to provide funding to support a scholar’s academic trajectory. That the financial component is not restricted to certain kinds of expenses makes the scholarship both unique and a powerful tool to address the “real life” financial obstacles that keep scholars from focusing on their education. As it stands, scholarship awards are not enough to remove those obstacles completely. An intended impact for this program is that scholars work toward a level of financial sustainability by building positive financial habits. As one mentor put it, “any new financial habits are a big deal” and while not perfect in execution, new understanding and practices are in fact taking hold and endowing scholars with a new skillset for managing their challenging financial situations to leverage the resources they have.

One scholar summarized this reality beautifully:

“I have more common sense, better decision-making skills and am wiser. Financial burden takes a lot out of you, [but] I don’t feel as dragged down by it.” – Scholar, age 20

Learn more about the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program here!

What is the Difference Between Equality & Equity?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. ( Source )

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. (Source)

The terms “equity” and “equality” are frequently thought to be interchangeable. However, in the world of education (and beyond) there is a large distinction between the two that can be differentiated in the same way as “fairness” and “sameness.” King University describes the difference as, “Equality denotes how people are treated, such as providing students an equal amount of respect or an equal amount of instruction. But equity, on the other hand, is about giving each students the tools [they] specifically need to thrive.” Equality assumes that every child needs the same amount of attention and tools in school in order to succeed. Equity accounts for the fact that children have different home lives, backgrounds, learning styles, or learning disabilities, among other factors.

The Glossary of Education Reform outlines several ways in which inequity can enter the public school system and classrooms:

  • Societal Inequity: Minority students (based on race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, or ability) may experience conscious or unconscious discrimination that can affect their learning, achievement, or aspirations.

  • Socioeconomic Inequity: Students from lower-income households can under-perform in the classroom and tend to enroll in higher education at lower rates than their more affluent peers.

  • Familial Inequity: Students may come from a tumultuous household with abuse, poverty, or lack of support. Parents who are unable to read themselves or were unable obtain a diploma may place a different emphasis on academics than parents who obtained a college degree.

  • Linguistic Inequity: Students who are learning the English language may be disadvantaged in classrooms that provide English-only exams and can be held to lower academic expectations.

These background variables place students at different advantages in school, starting from the time they enter Kindergarten. The support an English-language learner needs in a classroom differs from the attention a student who comes from an low-literate household needs. By focusing on these needs from the beginning, we can prevent achievement gaps that will only widen over time.

There are various ways to help bring fairness to the classroom and provide the tools that each student needs individually to succeed. An article written by Shane Safir, the founding co-principal of June Jordan School for Equity, explains some of these methods. Her first example details an English-language learner who struggled with paragraphs and punctuation and how she found the time for one-on-one teaching during a class quiz. By placing more emphasis on the student’s learning gap instead of a quiz that the entire class was taking, the teacher saw the importance in bringing the ELL student up to speed with the rest of the class. Some of her other methods include knowing the students lives outside of school, what they enjoy doing, and more about their family, so the teacher can build trust and begin to understand what additional support, if any, the child may need. Safir also believes in creating a safe space where failure is celebrated and students can share their struggles with their peers in order to learn from each other.

There have been several federal initiatives related to providing equity to students through how funding is allocated to schools as well as supporting organizations who can help bridge the equity gap directly. Promise Neighborhoods, Investing in Innovation, and IDEA are all recent federal initiatives that focus on supporting nonprofits and institutions of higher education that provide these students the tools they need to thrive.

Words Alive works to achieve equity in education, by providing additional support to students who may be working through extraordinary circumstances in the public school system. If you would like to learn more or get involved with our Words Alive programs, click here for more information.

Sources:

https://online.king.edu/news/equality-vs-equity/

https://www.edglossary.org/equity/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/equity-vs-equality-shane-safir

Words Alive Welcomes John, AmeriCorps VIP Fellow

 An image of John Camitan standing in front of a brick wall and smiling at the camera.

An image of John Camitan standing in front of a brick wall and smiling at the camera.

John Camitan joined the Words Alive Family in early September through the AmeriCorps Program, and will be working us for the 2018-2019 program year. His focus with the organization will be in volunteer infrastructure, and he will be a fixture at upcoming program and volunteer events. So far, John has hit the ground running and we’re so glad he’s part of our team.

We hope you get to meet him soon, if you have not yet!  Now, let's hear from John directly!

What intrigued you about Words Alive?

A big selling point was Words Alive working to inspire children to love reading and become lifelong learners. It put into perspective how much I took for granted, the number of books that I had access to as a child and how that impacted my development. It is such a noble cause and I am proud to be a part of it.

What are you most excited about in your new position?

I’m excited to work with a team that is genuine and passionate about helping members of the San Diego Community. I am eager to grow professionally with Christina’s guidance and help further develop the Words Alive volunteer program. As someone who is looking to enter the non-profit sector after completing law school, I am also excited to learn about how non-profits function and network with San Diego’s Non-Profit Community.

 What is your relationship with literacy?

I attribute a lot of where I am to literacy. The Harry Potter novels started my love of reading and sparked my curiosity for not just young adult books, but for other forms of literature. This love for literacy followed me to college where I studied Political Science, which consisted in hundreds of pages of political analysis. I don’t foresee my relationship with reading stopping anytime soon as I hope to attend law school in the future. 

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading IT by Stephen King. I watched the recent film adaptation and didn’t want to wait until Part 2 came out to find out what happens next.

 An image of John sitting at a table with a fellow volunteer at this year’s Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

An image of John sitting at a table with a fellow volunteer at this year’s Author’s Luncheon & Fundraiser!

Currently, there are no employment opportunities at Words Alive, but we are ALWAYS recruiting wonderful volunteers to work in the classrooms with our students and families. Check out how to get involved as a Words Alive volunteer!

Annual Report: Family Literacy Program

What happened in our Family Literacy Program in the 2017-2018 school year? Well…a lot!

To start, 437 families came through the door, taking home 2,511 books and clocking 1,310 hours of shared learning time. Let’s dive in and share what else happened in the program this year!

Meet Sheena

 An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

An image of Sheena Burks. She is standing in front of a bare wall and smiling at the camera.

In our sixth year of the program, our expanded facilitator team included Sheena, a talented mother and preschool teacher who attended the program the past two years with her young boys. She is the first parent participant to go on to lead the program with other families. Sheena has been able to use her experience as a participant in the program to shape her leadership style. Over the past year, Sheena has inspired 72 families through the Family Literacy Program, while sharing her own stories and experiences to help strengthen their connection to reading. Through this unique perspective, Sheena has been able to see the incredible effects the program has on children and families.

“I had a parent say that they couldn’t get their son to read at all because he thought it was boring,” said Sheena. “But after the program, they’re saying that he wants to read more and more...he’s comfortable now — he’s not feeling forced to read!”

Reporting Out

 An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

An image of Sheena facilitating a Family Literacy session. She is sitting on the floor with guardians and children while they all look at books together.

To engage returning families, Words Alive introduced new curriculum, including new book titles and supporting activities — and it was a huge hit! What’s more, parent knowledge in understanding child development, implementation of literacy-building activities at home, and book sharing behaviors continue to increase for our families during their time with us. With the increased knowledge and skills that come from our programs, parents are empowered in their role as their child’s first and most important teacher. By the program’s end:

• 68% more families reported having a routine for looking at books with their child.

• Families reported an average 38% increase in the size of their home libraries, growing on average from 11 to 16 books.

• Families that completed our program reported a 40% increase in understanding how their preschool child learns and have created a language-rich environment for them.

Moving Forward

Parents play the most critical role in developing skills and abilities within their children. Parent engagement is one of the key factors in a quality childhood program. At Words Alive, we know that our Family Literacy Program is engaging parents in a meaningful way and making an impact on the families who participate each year. We have successfully collaborated with a variety of partners like the Fullerton School District, who offered four sessions of our program in their schools after we trained their staff and provided curriculum.

“Words Alive has empowered parents to support their children acquire valuable literacy skills, engage families in discussion about meaningful literature, and connect our parents into our school community.” —Dr. Robert Pletka, Fullerton School District Superintendent

We continue to see the same results in the families through this training model and through direct services. Going forward we want to continue to diversify where we can offer our Family Literacy Program by reaching out to families through classes located within their communities.

Learn more about our Family Literacy Program here!

Board Spotlight: Kristina Houck!

 An image of Kristina Houck standing in front of bookshelves and holding up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

An image of Kristina Houck standing in front of bookshelves and holding up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

Kristina Houck came to Words Alive when we folded Rolling Readers into our portfolio of programs in 2014. She is an award-winning journalist and currently works as an editor for Patch, covering San Diego and Marin counties. She previously served as a staff reporter for U-T Community Press, a group of community newspapers in San Diego's North County. 

With a background in journalism and public relations, Kristina sits on Words Alive’s Board, serves as Board Secretary, and chairs the Communication & Marketing committee. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science with minors in English and religious studies from San Diego State University. 

Kristina lives in the San Diego area with her husband, Jason, and son, Harrison.

Let’s hear more from Kristina herself!

When was the first moment you fell in love with reading?

I developed a love of reading at an early age. From Dr. Seuss books as a young child, to "The Baby-Sitters Club" series as a preteen, I constantly had a book in my hand. 

How do you use literacy in your day-to-day life?

As a writer and editor, literacy is crucial to my everyday success. I read and write for work. I also read and write for pleasure. Most importantly, I read to my 19-month-old son, Harrison. It has been an absolute joy watching him discover books and already develop a love of reading. Some of his favorite books include "The Very Hungry Caterpillar," "Where Is Baby's Belly Button?" and "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," which was one of my favorites as a child. 

What inspired you to join the Words Alive board?

I joined Words Alive by way of Rolling Readers, where I served as a board member and chaired the marketing committee. When Words Alive folded Rolling Readers into their programs in 2014, it was a natural fit for me to join the team. I whole-heartedly believe in the mission of the organization and have seen the impact of the Read Aloud, Adolescent Book Group, Family Literacy and Westreich Scholarship programs on the community. 

In addition to sitting on the board, I serve as Board Secretary and chair the Marketing & Communication Committee, which strives to share the amazing work we do with the greater public. As Marketing & Communication chair, I also spearhead our annual Share Your Love of Reading campaign, which invites San Diego's most prominent politicians, media personalities and other local celebrities to act as honorary readers in Words Alive classrooms. Students receive free books during the month-long campaign, which aims to raise awareness about the importance of literacy and reading aloud.

What has been your favorite aspect of being a Words Alive board member?

From working on the Share Your Love of Reading campaign, to visiting Words Alive classrooms and attending events, I've made so many memories and worked with amazing people while serving as a board member. It’s been truly rewarding to be a small part of an organization that has made such a big impact on the lives of children, teens and families in San Diego County. 

Thank you, Kristina, for all you’ve done for Words Alive! Learn more about our Board of Directors here!

Why Diversity in Books is So Important

By Jennifer Van Pelt

 Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit:  Nicola Yoon

Image of young adult author Nicola Yoon and her husband holding up a sign that says, “We need diverse books because of everything in this circle.” There is a circle cut out of the sign and their daughter is standing so her face is in the circle. Photo credit: Nicola Yoon

In a recent blog post, we previewed a few books included in our curriculum for the 2018-2019 school year. Among the books included are short stories and novels that feature characters and are written by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, authors who deal with mental health issues, and have other diverse experiences.

ADL is a nonprofit whose mission is to secure justice and fair treatment to all, including those of varying religions, races, genders, and identities. ADL posted an article outlining anti-biased education and how diversity in books was related. The article explains the difference between “mirror books” and “window books” when referring to diversity in children’s literature. A “mirror book” contains a reflection of oneself: your culture, gender, race, religion, etc. and enables the reader to potentially see themselves in a different light. On the other hand, a “window book” gives the reader a glance into another life that features different people, events, and places that they may not be familiar with. Exposing students to different environments through these “window books” is a unique opportunity to learn empathy and perspective, while allowing children to reflect on their experiences through “mirror” books helps them relate in new ways and learn more about themselves in the process.

 A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations.  Source

A graphic titled “Proportion of children’s books by people of color published in the US (2017).” The graphic shows the following statistics: 3,150 white, 274 Asian Pacific/Pacific Americans, 122 African/African Americans, 116 Latinos, 38 American Indians/First Nations. Source

What Portion of Books are Considered Diverse Today?

The Cooperative Children’s Book Center does a yearly study on how many books are published from non-white authors. Though there has been an increase in recent years for books published from multicultural authors, there are still just over 10% of books published in the last 24 years that were written by and about people of color. This is compared to the 2017 census data that reported 40% of Americans as people of color.

Examining the books in the Young Adult LGBTQ category, where the characters or plot line focuses on LGBTQ issues, the percentage has doubled in the last decade. Malindo Lo, an author who writes about such issues, conducted her own study in 2017. Malindo counted books published each year by mainstream authors, reaching nearly 80 books in 2018, up from 55 in 2015. Comparing this to the 4.5% reported American LGBT population in 2017, there is a large variance between the population and the representation within publications and what students are exposed to. This under-representation is what a lot of advocacy groups and movements aim to address today.

Is Diversity in Books an Important Topic Today?

Yes! We Need Diverse Books aims to “produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.” An 11 year old African-American girl, Marley Dias, launched the #1000BlackGirlBooks to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in contemporary books.

Words Alive understands the importance of diversity as well and works hard to bring “window books” and “mirror books” into the classrooms to teach students self-reflection and empathy. Most of our participants are non-white students, a group that is severely underrepresented in American publications. By exposing students to different cultures and reliving how main characters have endured experiences that the reader may have gone through personally, we are able to bring more representation, tolerance, and understanding into the classroom.

Sources:

https://www.adl.org/education/resources/tools-and-strategies/table-talk/why-we-need-diverse-books

http://ccbc.education.wisc.edu/books/pcstats.asp

https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045217

https://www.malindalo.com/blog/2017/10/12/lgbtq-ya-by-the-numbers-2015-16

https://news.gallup.com/poll/234863/estimate-lgbt-population-rises.aspx

https://diversebooks.org/about-wndb/





"Through it all, Words Alive always supported me."

By Brittany Jackson

 An image of Brittany standing up while being applauded at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

An image of Brittany standing up while being applauded at the 2018 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Award Ceremony.

I first met Words Alive in 2010 in my English classroom at Monarch School.

My mom’s “friend” had just kicked us out of her living room and left my family and I in front of Monarch School with all of our belongings: our clothes frantically stuffed in bags, suitcases, and my backpack. My family and I had just became homeless…..again. It was always the same routine: find a place to stay for a few months, a week, or a night, and then move again. With every move, I was also forced to change schools and confront a new set of classmates and new teachers who didn’t understand my background or situation.

While drugs and gangs polluted my environment at home, Monarch School was a safe place for me to learn. That was how I met Words Alive. Words Alive was incorporated into Monarch School’s curriculum and we met once a week to discuss the assigned reading for that assigned period. Monarch, at the time, could easily fit the entire high school class into two small classrooms. Every student at different reading levels, but Words Alive welcomed us all.

 An image of Brittany with former staff member Chrissy Califf and other scholarship recipients at the 2010 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Ceremony - her first year in the program!

An image of Brittany with former staff member Chrissy Califf and other scholarship recipients at the 2010 Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Ceremony - her first year in the program!

As the years continued, my relationship with Words Alive only grew stronger. I had graduated at the top of my class from Monarch School in June 2012 and shortly after began my next step at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Although I had left San Diego, Words Alive followed. I applied for the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship and was awarded relief from my financial burden and a supportive mentor, Sarah. Although I was 400 miles away from San Diego, Sarah worked on monthly budgets and offered advice on situations I had never faced before.

Attending university was an exciting yet foreign experience for me, but Words Alive supported me through it all. When I began my freshman year in college, I felt confident that I wanted to become a pharmacist. A few quarters later, I wanted to become a dental assistant, kindergarten teacher, and probation officer. I loved chemistry! But I also loved working with people and helping them reach their full potential. Finally in my senior year, I realized a career as a high school counselor would encompass my passion to help others. But through it all, Words Alive always supported me.

In June 2017, I was finally prepared to walk the stage and graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. As I proudly shook the hand of my college provost and accepted my degree, I looked up to see my two grandparents and my Words Alive family parading my memorable milestone. I was the first in my family to graduate high school and now I was the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university. While my brother viewed my college journey as abandoning family responsibilities, Words Alive was there to support me.

 An image of Brittany with former staff member Chrissy Califf and her mentor Sarah Archibald at her graduation from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

An image of Brittany with former staff member Chrissy Califf and her mentor Sarah Archibald at her graduation from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Although I graduated from school and was no longer a recipient of the scholarship program, my relationship with Sarah and Words Alive continued. Last year, I volunteered with the Adolescent Book Group with my mentor, Sarah, at the La Mesa Community Blended School. We met with the high school class every two weeks and discussed books such as Born a Crime or The Hate U Give. We also worked on the 4th Annual Art and Literacy Event together with the kids and helped them express their perception of the theme identity.  

I am now proud to say that I am working as a research assistant for the Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development Study at UC San Diego. I’m currently in the process of applying to graduate school to achieve a Master’s degree in School Counseling. In addition, I regularly return to Monarch and Words Alive as a volunteer helping the current students and scholarship recipients reach their full potential and realize how bright their futures can be.

 An image of Brittany with her new mentee, Antonise (far left), with another scholarship recipient Domminiece (middle).

An image of Brittany with her new mentee, Antonise (far left), with another scholarship recipient Domminiece (middle).

Brittany has come full circle and is now a mentor for a new scholarship student in the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program. We could not be prouder of her and we are so grateful for her support.

WAWS Spotlight: Zaphire Alonso Duarte

 An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, standing with Zaphire at the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Ceremony.

An image of Jessica Fryman, Teen Services Program Manager, standing with Zaphire at the Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Ceremony.

Zaphire is in her fourth year of being a Words Alive Westreich Scholarship recipient. She graduated from San Diego City College in May with her associate’s degree, and she started at San Diego State University this fall. Zaphire is a Resident Supervisor on a residential program from the YMCA.

She would love to work and help families that are dealing with problems in their life, and help them seek a better future for themselves.

The Words Alive Westreich Scholarship Program awards scholarships to participants in the Words Alive Adolescent Book Group to support them in their pursuit of higher education at the college or vocational level. Unlike other scholarship programs, which typically fund only tuition, books and educational supplies, each recipient is eligible to receive funds to cover the cost of rent, food, childcare, clothing, travel and other living expenses. Additionally, the program matches each recipient with a mentor. Student and mentor meet regularly throughout the school year, and the mentors provide guidance, direction, and often, a shoulder to lean on.

Let’s hear more from Zaphire!

Name: Zaphire M. Alonso Duarte

Age: 22

College: San Diego State University

Area of Study: Social Work

High School: Monarch School

Mentor: Tammy Greenwood

 An image of Zaphire with her mentor Tammy Greenwood at Zaphire’s graduation from San Diego City College.

An image of Zaphire with her mentor Tammy Greenwood at Zaphire’s graduation from San Diego City College.

How did you first get involved with Words Alive?

I started being involved at Words Alive during high school, since I was in the 11th grade. I learned about a lot of different books, and that opened me to read more books. After high school in 2014, Words Alive has been my support system.

How has your experience with Words Alive affected you?

It has helped me more than financially. The Words Alive program has been my support system personally and academically. I am extremely thankful for all the people who are part of the staff, they are the best in always being on top of things.

What have you accomplished this year that you are most proud of?

I have graduated from San Diego City College after 4 years and will be transferring to San Diego State University.

Tell us about your favorite college memory.

My favorite college memory was being able to have great moments with my classmates. For example, take time out of class and go out to the beach or to the movies.

Learn more about our Words Alive Westreich Scholarship program here!

Dyslexia Awareness Month!

 An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

An image of blocks of letters all mixed up. People with dyslexia experience difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities.

What is Dyslexia?

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, a time to bring more attention to what dyslexia is and how best to work with those who are dyslexic. The International Dyslexia Association characterizes the learning disability as difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and poor spelling and decoding abilities. Consequences from dyslexia can include problems with reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. Unrelated to a person’s cognitive abilities, dyslexia has many positive consequences, including helping individuals become highly resilient and adaptable, articulate and expressive of thoughts and feelings, empathetic, and having the ability to think outside of the box and see the bigger picture.

Who Is Impacted By Dyslexia and What Is Being Done About It?

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity states that dyslexia effects 20% of the population and represents 80-90% of those with a learning disability. Due to the prevalence of dyslexia, thirty-nine of the fifty states have introduced dyslexia related legislation, which are outlined on . The National Center on Improving Literacy website in detail. California, as one of these states, has a bill that requires guidelines to be prepared to assist teachers and parents in identifying dyslexia as well as provide improved educational services to these students. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also provides the accommodation for students with dyslexia to have additional time to take exams, believed to be one of the most critical accommodations that allows students to succeed alongside students without the learning disability.

How Best to Teach Those With Dyslexia?

Structured Word Inquiry (SWI) is a method that is frequently used to teach individuals with dyslexia. Also termed Scientific Word Investigation, WordWorksKingston.com describes one of the guiding principles behind the method to be: the conventions by which English spelling represents meaning are so well-ordered and reliable that spelling can be investigated and understood through scientific inquiry. The Nueva school, a California-based school, summarizes the method into a few simple steps: The method starts with students brainstorming a way to define the word, using knowledge they already have. From there, they look at the structure of the word before diving into the etymology of the word as well as what the prefix, suffix, or base word is. Then, the students explore if there are any related words, before visually representing them in what has been termed a “Word Sum”. Lastly, the students debrief about what they learned about that particular word family. By going through this inquiry process, students learn more about the background of the word and are given the tools to learn new words on their own.

If you believe your child or student has dyslexia, but aren’t sure where to start, many of the websites listed below have additional resources. Another resource that is frequently cited by national and international dyslexia organizations is Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz.

Events such as Dyslexia Awareness Month helps to bring attention to the 20% of our population who have dyslexia. Through this additional time and recognition, students are given the opportunity to learn to read and succeed alongside their peers.

Sources:

https://dyslexiaida.org/definition-of-dyslexia/

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/dyslexia/what-is-dyslexia/

https://improvingliteracy.org/state-of-dyslexia/california

http://wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Structured_Word_Inquiry.html

https://www.nuevaschool.org/student-experience/lower-school/structured-word-inquiry

Jennifer Van Pelt - Volunteer of the Month - July 2018

 
Jennifer Van Pelt.jpg
 

Please join us in congratulating Jennifer Van Pelt - Words Alive Volunteer of the Month for July 2018!

Jennifer has been a lead writer for the Words Alive Blog since February. Her ability to research and create content around relevant topics is a tremendous asset to our communication team and our organization. Her efforts continue to boost our blog views and highlight Words Alive as a leader in transforming lives through literacy.

We are so appreciative of the nearly 100 hours she has given in writing time so far!  And, we are thankful she shares her talent with our organization.

Thank you, Jennifer!

 

Check out the Volunteer of the Month Interview with Jennifer below:

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a San Diego Native and attended SDSU for a Business Management Degree, emphasis in Human Resources. I enjoy talking to and helping people and also volunteer to teach English Second Language -- nothing is more rewarding to me than seeing others succeed. 

When and how did you first get involved with Words alive?
My passion for helping people is what attracted me to Words Alive. I love that we give our participants the tools to achieve their goals and inspire those around them to do the same.

What is the most rewarding part of your volunteer role(s)?
The most rewarding part of volunteering with Words Alive is being able to witness all of the good that Words Alive does -- our success stories, photos, and events speak volumes for the organization and the impact we have on others. I am excited to see how Words Alive grows!

What have you been reading lately?
I have been reading the Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, inspired by my recent trip to Greece!