Alpha Gam has recently made a donation to Reading Allies of Alabama. Two of our rising sophomores, Izzy Boyd, and Helen Babb, served with this amazing program and wanted to share why it is such a deserving organization.
Reading Allies is a statewide initiative that supports kindergarten to third-grade elementary school students to read on grade level and aims to promote educational equity in Tuscaloosa and throughout Alabama. Aligning with the goals of the recently passed Alabama Literacy Act, which requires all students to read at grade level by the conclusion of their third-grade year, Reading Allies primarily serves minority students impacted by systemic poverty so those students can succeed in and outside of the classroom. The program pairs tutors from university campuses and local communities with students to effectively improve reading skills. Since low-income and minority schools are more likely to have students struggling with literacy, Reading Allies is creatively and effectively combating inequalities and injustices in our community.
We both have loved getting to tutor our “Book Buddies” at Holt Elementary this past year, so much so that we continue to volunteer for the organization working on administrative tasks. At Alabama, there is so much to do and areas to be involved in, and Reading Allies has been just one way for us to become a part of the local Tuscaloosa community!
We both want to share a bit of our experiences with the program and the way it impacted our freshman year!
For me, serving as a Book Buddy with Reading Allies helped me step off campus and serve Tuscaloosa in a meaningful way. Izzy and I both started tutoring the students with the University Fellows program in the fall semester. I went once a week and worked with a first-grader on his reading skills throughout the semester. From the first week, when my buddy was forming sounds to the end when he wanted to read his entire books to me, I could see the transformation that this program had for his education. We were able to hear about the students’ days, find out their interests, and invest into building their confidence holistically. On the last day for the fall semester we had a graduation for the completion of the program. The students received a brand new book of their own, and seeing their excitement and smiles was so joyful. I think finding a way to serve the Tuscaloosa community changed the way I experienced my first year. I primarily stayed on campus during my first semester, and this opportunity allowed me to have a fresh perspective on life outside of college and how I could use my time to do something for the good of people beyond this microcosm.
I loved getting to know my Book Buddy and so many of the other students at Holt Elementary. It was so incredible to see how much they progressed in their reading and writing with a little help. Although it only took about an hour of my time for a week, it was very apparent how much Reading Allies helped them grow as scholars and individuals! The program allowed me to get out of my campus bubble and challenged me to serve the Tuscaloosa community and the state of Alabama as a whole. As I am from Mississippi and Helen is from Tennessee, volunteering for Reading Allies has taught us about the state of Alabama and educational policy as well. Seeing the first graders running into the library excited to learn, is truly one of the sweetest memories of my freshman year, and I’m so glad I’m able to continue to serve these students and program!
Overall, Reading Allies has been an incredible part of our college experiences and has allowed us to promote equity and inclusion in our community. Whether you want to get involved tutoring in schools, with this program or Al’s Pal’s, or in other ways such as Best Buddies, where you are paired with a Buddy with intellectual/developmental disabilities, there are so many ways to make college life meaningful beyond the campus itself. Alpha Gam has been so supportive and encouraging of us finding ways to become plugged into some of these opportunities, such as by supporting the Reading Allies initiative or having older members speak with us about how they have found ways to serve. This community has continually encouraged us in all pursuits and created an environment where all interests are supported!
If you have any questions about the program or further ways to invest in the Tuscaloosa and UA communities, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org (Izzy) or email@example.com (Helen)!