In this series, What’s Your Why, United Way is calling on its supporters to share what volunteering means for them and why they feel passionately about a cause in our community. This month we feature Carol Courtney, a Stanley Security Solutions employee and ReadUP volunteer.
Carol Courtney knows that children are our next generation of leaders. For the past eight years, she’s made it her mission to try to mold this next generation into good citizens while teaching them the fundamentals of reading through volunteering with ReadUP.
ReadUP connects volunteers with local schools, where they read to two students for 30 minutes every week. This one-on-one reading time helps kids get on track – and stay on track – with grade-level literacy. It’s proven that children who read at or above grade-level are more likely to succeed in school and in life.
We recently chatted with Carol to learn what’s her why – why does she volunteer? Why ReadUP? Why does she raise her hand to volunteer, season after season, year after year?
Why ReadUP? How did you first get introduced to the program?
I’m so thankful to my employer, STANLEY Security, for connecting me with this opportunity during one of our United Way campaigns. I’m a big reader, so I was immediately interested since it combined my love of reading with my passion for giving back. My company is gracious enough to partner with United Way and allows me to volunteer with my two students each week.
What drives your volunteerism? Eight years is a long time to commit to a program!
My love of people is what drives it. The children are our next generation of leaders, so it’s a pleasure for me to try to help mold them into being good citizens. It’s also a great opportunity for me to learn and grow. I think it’s a responsibility for all of us to give back and help bring up others who are younger.
What’s so special about ReadUP?
It goes beyond reading – I truly build a friendship with these students. I enjoy making a difference in the child’s life, helping them to understand not only reading but life, too. ReadUP helps them learn about reading and comprehension, but it also allows them to discuss a lot of things with me — family, school, the world in general. These discussions help guide them as they grow older and begin working to make the community better, more diverse and more inclusive.
There’s also a great comradery between the tutors. We all come from different businesses, organizations and backgrounds, but we have ReadUP in common. It’s a great networking tool!
How do you know you are making a difference as a ReadUP tutor?
One year, I had a student named Raymond who never wanted to read. He would always say, “I’m tired, I don’t feel like reading.” I would respond with, “I worked all day and came here to help, so let’s do this together.” I just continued on — we had discussions along the way and I think that really worked. Instead of saying, “You have to read this,” I tried to incorporate personal things into the reading program. We chose the books we read together, as we developed a friendship I was able to suggest books I knew he would be interested in, such as his favorite book Captain Underpants.
I worked with him the entire year and he completely improved. The next year, I walked into the school and someone was calling my name. I turned around and there was Raymond, almost as tall as I was, telling me thank you for helping him so much. That really made my day.
Why are you so dedicated to ReadUP?
ReadUP is fundamental — everything you do, you have to read! Driving directions, opening a can, a complicated IT issue and even solving a math problem are all inclusive of reading. I try to get across to the kids that you are not reading just to be reading, you are going to be using this throughout life. I let them know that this is what is ahead to really try to prepare them for the future. It’s about setting those children up to do whatever they want to do.
What makes you so passionate about volunteering?
People get so busy in the day today tasks that I think they just forget about other people who have needs, and how many different needs there are. I think ReadUP is just one small piece of how we can help and support our youth, who are the leaders of tomorrow. With so much going on in the world, we really need that.
With volunteers like Carol, ReadUP is making a major impact in not only the reading skills of youth in our community but their confidence, social skills and future success as well.
If you’re interested in learning more about ReadUP and how you can assist children at a school near your work or home, look here.
If you are a dedicated United Way volunteer and are interested in being spotlighted for this special feature, fill out the form below and we will be in touch!