The new work-study program allows CCAC students chance to become a mentor for third graders at King Elementary.

By: Neil Strebig


When America Reads was launched in 1996 the goal was to improve literacy rates among elementary school students. At the time nearly 40 percent of third-grade students were reading below proficiency levels.

According to this year’s Report to the Community by A+ Schools, Pittsburgh King PreK-8 had 30 percent of their student’s grades 3 through 5 below a proficient PSSA reading level.

Following a conversation with representatives from Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) it was brought to Katlyn Alves’ attention that a number of Northside schools had at least one similar program, however, King Elementary did not.

With the need for an after-school literacy program and the proximity to CCAC’s campus, Alves saw this as a great opportunity to offer CCAC students a chance to earn monetary compensation while also giving back to the community.

“Along with the literacy teaching there is a mentoring component,” said Alves. “This is something the [CCAC] students can feel passionate about.”

Alves who is an AmeriCorps VISTA member sponsored by the Pennsylvania Campus Compact (PACC) VISTA program, created the CCAC America Reads work-study program for the Fall 2017 semester.

The program takes six CCAC students and pairs them with 14 third graders in King’s After-School Program. Monday thru Wednesday they’ll work with the students at King Elementary.

On Thursdays, CCAC tutors will meet with Alves for what she refers to as a “debrief” session 3:30 to 5:30 to discuss ways they can improve the study sessions with the students. The goal is not only to help improve the students’ literary comprehension rates but to also see a boost in student engagement and attendance.

A CCAC flyer for their new America Reads work-study program. Photo courtesy of CCAC.

“They look up to those college students. I’m hoping that in the future it helps them want to go to college more,” said King Elementary English teacher Elizabeth Fulton-Lasley. “It encourages them to be successful.”

Fulton-Lasley,  who oversees King’s after-school program and has been teaching in PPS for 19 years, has noticed a drastic improvement in the students reading of words per minute. Something that translates immediately to their comprehension abilities.

“The more words they can read, the more words they know the stronger vocabulary they have, will help them be more successful on their test,” said Fulton-Lasley.

However, as pleased as Fulton-Lasley has been with the increase in student reading abilities she also credits the program for being a huge triumph in the advancement of younger students’ social skills. She refers to the tutors as the students’ “buddies.”

According to her, the students talk with the tutors on a personal level and through “one-on-one time” they establish a comfort level with the CCAC students that she believes is vital to not only the student’s education but their relationship to adults.

“It’s really nice to have somebody they can talk to and look up to,” said Fulton Lasley. “They love it. They love having that special time with their buddy.”

According to Alves, CCAC plans on expanding the program next year adding more tutors and possibly adding more programs at other schools or increasing their influence at King. For more information on the program or how to get involved visit CCAC’s student services page.



*This article was last updated January 16 at 9:51 a.m.

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