$25,000 Cities of Service grant for ‘reading mentors’ set

A $25,000 grant from Cities of Service will fund a new program to put reading mentors in middle schools next year to help students increase their reading skills and succeed in high school, according to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean.

“We know that we have middle school students who risk never graduating from high school because they struggle with reading, and this program will help put them on the path to success,” Dean said.

“I appreciate Cities of Service for recognizing the importance of this initiative. Nashvillians have always been committed to serving their community, especially when it comes to educating our students, and these volunteer mentors will be a positive influence in the lives of these young readers.”

During one-on-one sessions, volunteer mentors will coach students on reading and also discuss ways to help them strive to graduate from high school. The program targets college students and recent college graduates to volunteer as mentors.

One hundred middle school students will be drawn from the Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA), which was created by Mayor Dean to help make free afterschool programs available to low-income students.
The mentoring program is intended to aid students attending the poorest performing public middle schools in Nashville.

The program will also include incentives for the students and their mentors. Students who make the most reading gains during a semester can earn an e-book reader, a Kindle Fire, for themselves and a $500 college scholarship or loan repayment for their paired mentor.

The majority of Nashville’s public middle school students in the fifth to eighth grades are not proficient in reading, meaning they have at least a one in five chance of not graduating from high school. Individual mentoring sessions are often the most successful method to improve reading ability, succeeding in ways that even small group reading settings do not.

Program partners include the Mayor’s Office, NAZA, the Martha O’Bryan Center, Hands On Nashville and the PENCIL Foundation. A companion grant of $17,700 in delinquency prevention funding has also been awarded from the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.

Nashville was one of 23 U.S. cities to win a Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grant, which supports mayors who are implementing ‘impact volunteering’ strategies that tackle pressing local challenges. Dozens of cities across the nation have adopted the model since its introduction in 2009.

This is the second year Nashville has been awarded a Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grant. In 2013, the city’s Change for Chestnut program received $25,000 in funding to implement energy efficiency upgrades into low income homes in the Chestnut Hill area located in south Nashville.

In partnership with Hands On Nashville and other community partners, the program has deployed more than 980 volunteers to complete home energy improvements in more than 150 homes owned and occupied by low-income residents.

As a result, benefiting homeowners’ energy bills were reduced by an average of 10%, and the volunteer service was valued at an economic impact of $91,788.

More than 60 mayors applied for Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund grants to support the implementation of nearly 90 initiatives. Grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 also will support efforts in Allentown, Penn.; Atlanta, Ga.; Austin, Texas; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Campton Hills, Ill.; Charleston, S.C.; Fall River, Mass.; Flint, Mich.; Hartford, Conn.; Hayward, Calif.; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Kansas City, Kan.; Louisville, Ky.; Mesa, Ariz.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Orlando, Fla.; Philadelphia, Penn.; Richmond, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Utica, N.Y.; and Washington, D.C.

Funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund is a multi-million dollar fund. Nearly $1 million was awarded through the first round of grants in October 2012, with an additional $1 million awarded through this second round. Grantee cities were selected based on the quality of initiative proposals, scale and potential for impact, and caliber of implementation plans, among other criteria.
Cities of Service Impact Volunteering Fund initiatives address issues in the Cities of Service priority areas of education and youth, health, neighborhood revitalization, preparedness and safety, sustainability, and veterans.