Tammy Goss, Inside Sales Manager at Balco, recently spoke at the United Way of the Plains Year End Celebration. The event, held at Century II, was a way for the organization to review the year’s achievements and thank its supporters.
The celebration featured volunteers sharing their experiences. Goss, who serves as a volunteer reading coach at Gardiner Elementary, spoke about helping third graders reach on-grade reading level as part of the Read to Succeed program. Read to Succeed is an initiative of Women United, an affinity group of United Way of the Plains.
In the Read to Succeed program, each coach is paired with an individual student. Once or twice a week, for 20 to 30 minutes, the coach listens to the student read and coaches him or her through phonics, enunciation and reading comprehension. The program began with 22 coaches at Gardiner Elementary only, but has expanded to 192 coaches at four schools.
The results at Gardiner have far exceeded expectations. The realistic goal is for students to improve by 1 word per minute per week, but Read to Succeed participants are, on average, gaining 4.1 words per minute per week. Every student in the program improved in speed, accuracy, or both. Nine students achieved grade-level reading and will graduate out of the program.
These results bode well for both the short-term and long-term success of the students. “Up until third grade you are learning to read,” said Goss. “After third grade you have to read in order to learn. Everything else you do hinges on being able to read. You can’t understand your math instructions if you can’t read them, or understand your history lesson if you can’t read and retain that information.
“Studies have shown that students who are reading at grade level in third grade improve their chance of [high school] graduation by three times,” she added.
For all the benefit to the students, Goss noted that the coaches get just as much back. “The kids are just so happy to please and learn,” she said.
For Goss, whose original career goal was to be a teacher, the Read to Succeed program is a perfect fit. When she started at Balco 18 years ago, she was working towards an Elementary Education degree at Wichita State. She enjoyed the company, the work, and the challenges and opportunities it provided, and so decided to shift her career goals. She now handles all domestic and international inside sales as Inside Sales Manager.
“Now that I’m at this point, I decided that I wanted to get back involved with helping kids somehow,” said Goss. “I started looking at opportunities through the United Way, and this opportunity presented itself. It’s a way to do what I wanted to do from the beginning—help kids succeed—while still keeping my career at Balco.
“Balco is really great about supporting volunteer opportunities,” she added. “They are very supportive about allowing time off [for volunteering]—I just juggle my lunch hour on the two days I go to Gardiner. We do a United Way campaign every year. I even did a book drive this year…we collected over 65 books to donate to the schools I’m working with.”