Volunteers Needed for Mentor Protégé Reading Program at Gregory School

May 6, 2022 - The School of Social Work, housed in the College of Health and Human Services, is partnering with the Barbara Highsmith Academy’s Mentor Protégé Reading Program to volunteer – and help recruit volunteers – to read to second graders at the International School at Gregory.

The Barbara Highsmith Academy’s Mentor Protégé Reading Program pairs high school scholars, administrators, parents and other community volunteers with struggling second grade readers at Gregory. The Academy promotes academic excellence in early childhood education, leadership, respect for others, and parental/family involvement for all second grade protégés participating in the program.

The mission of the academy is to eliminate the literacy gap of emerging second-graders who are functionally illiterate, with a long-term goal of positively impacting K-7 student achievement. They pledge to remove the impediment of illiteracy from the lives of our most vulnerable children with the help of teachers, volunteers, mentors and role models.

The Nick Cannon Foundation contributed $10,000 to the reading academy last year. After forming a partnership with Scholastic Publishing, the academy used this money to purchase books at a heavily discounted price for their students.

Volunteers are asked to read to second graders at least one hour per week on-site with the goal of helping students overcome both reading struggles and a fear of reading. Volunteers are required to participate in one-hour of virtual training.

Dr. Stacey Kolomer, director of the School of Social Work, says of the success of this relationship, “We are fortunate that Ron Highsmith of the Nick Cannon Foundation reached out to the School of Social Work to find volunteers for the Barbara Highsmith Reading Academy.  Mr. Highsmith's vision and commitment to literacy in our community in honor of his mother is inspiring and it is a privilege that social work students are able to participate and contribute to the cause. This collaboration not only helps second graders, it also benefits social work students and helps grow their skills,” she said.

Highsmith is the founder of the Barbara Highsmith Reading Academy and he couldn’t be happier to have a relationship with UNCW. “You know, it’s just been a beautiful thing, this is a match made in heaven and everyone has truly embraced it,” he said. “We have a unique opportunity to really be able to make a difference for countless children.”

Interested volunteers should visit barbarahighsmithreadingacademy.org.