In the Spotlight
Westshire Elementary EW! Program Sparks Volunteer Interest

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

Like a basketball player who swishes the last five baskets in a row, the Westshire Elementary School Everybody Wins! program is “on fire”. Thanks to a noticeable increase in volunteer participation, a record number of Westshire students are reading with mentors each week. Currently, 15 reading pairs share an hour together each Tuesday, with one more pair slated to start reading in February.
At the start of the program in September, 14 students expressed interest in reading each week in Everybody Wins!
“Westshire students were overjoyed about Everybody Wins! starting,” says Shawn Gonyaw, Westshire Elementary School Principal and co-EW! school coordinator with Librarian Joyce Russell. “It is great to see our fifth graders who were involved last year ‘spreading’ their positive experiences and recruiting other students.”
Fourteen students interested in being matched with a mentor posed a challenge to school coordinators and returning reading mentors, as only 10 students had read with mentors the previous year at this small rural school. So during the program’s orientation in September, a group of returning mentors put their heads together to brainstorm creative ways to recruit new volunteers.
Ginny Marino and Lynn Roy, long-time Westshire EW! mentors, led the recruitment efforts, bringing in a total of five new mentors.
“We knew we needed to find mentors for those four additional students who wanted to read. That was our real motivation,” says Lynn Roy, a librarian in nearby Vershire. “There aren’t many businesses near Westshire, so we knew we need to reach out to community members – retirees, grandparents and those who work from home. We started asking specific people who might have time available.”
Roy, whose husband John is also a reading mentor, enlisted the help of another family member to communicate the need for four more mentors. “My daughter helped spread the word to co-workers at the Mountain School in Vershire who might have time available to read,” she says. “Two new mentors resulted.”
Due to the tremendous volunteer response, reading pairs now read in both the library and an additional classroom to accommodate the extra space needed. And participating students are thrilled with the program: "I like Everybody Wins! because my mentor and I read a lot of true stories. We also talk about our weekends and vacations,” says Katherine, a Westshire student. “Everybody should participate in Everybody Wins! because the mentors teach you to love reading."
Westshire’s EW! program is a result of the successful collaboration between Everybody Wins! Vermont and the Upper Valley Business and Education Partnership (UVBEP). UVBEP facilitates five EW! programs in the Upper Valley, with nearly 100 mentors in Hartland, Tunbridge and West Fairlee, VT, and Claremont and West Lebanon, NH.
“This program has and continues to make a huge difference in the lives of the Westshire students,” Gonyaw concludes.


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