2019 United Way Annual Report - Page 27

Seven-year-old Amare dreams
of becoming a scientist when
he grows up.
Some days, he says he wants to be a firefighter
and other days a police officer.
Even as a first-grader, Amare is very technicallyminded, interested in thinking critically and
exploring his world.
“He likes to see how things work,” his mother
Omeka says. “I’m pushing him to be independent,
kindergarten level to beginning [to read on his
to do things on his own.”
appropriate grade] level. It’s hard to make an
entire year’s growth in that short of time.”
But despite his determination, Amare struggled
as he learned to read throughout kindergarten.
Heather starts each session by reading a book.
Amare typically enjoys his after-school snack
Omeka noticed he was having trouble with his
while Heather reads and points out specific
speech, so she enrolled him in speech therapy
pictures and words. Whenever she sees him
after school. Then she discovered the Y Literacy
struggling or frustrated, she encourages Amare
program through the YMCA of Middle Tennessee,
to break the sentences down into individual
which offers free one-on-one reading tutoring to
students who are reading below grade level.
“I just say ‘What’s this word? OK, what’s this
That’s where he met his tutor and friend Heather.
word?’ Then we put it together. He’s getting really
good at that.”
Heather and Amare spend every Monday
afternoon together, working on phonics, fluency,
The Y Literacy program is important for students
comprehension and vocabulary.
like Amare because of the individualized
attention he gets. Amare is vibrant and energetic
“Just from working with Heather for the fall
but at school he’s a little more reserved.
semester, he made a whole year’s growth,” says
Jordan Waller, senior director of the Y Literacy
With Heather, he has the confidence to ask
program. “He went from [reading on]
questions that he might not ask at school.
PAG E 25

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