Ottumwa Leadership Academy’s K-3 Literacy project team has found a home for their project with United Way of Wapello County. Each year participants of the Leadership Academy create team projects that are then presented during graduation. “The purpose of the presentation is two-fold,” stated Hollie Tometich, Executive Director of Ottumwa Leadership Academy, “One – it allows participants a large audience of around 100 people to put their public speaking skills to the test and – two- it allows the project teams to hopefully find an organization to partner with in order to sustain the work they’ve done and see it come to fruition.”
Juanita Weyenberg, K-3 Literacy project member, stated, “Our team was concerned about the effect of the Iowa code that requires any student who is below grade level reading in 3rd grade to repeat the grade. We wanted to make sure that those students who aren’t reaching this benchmark have every opportunity to reach it.”
The project team spoke with the Ottumwa school board, principals, and sought out volunteer groups including the Retired Educators Association. They created an after-school reading program that can be done in the schools and had the support of all they spoke with –they just needed to align with an organization who could make it happen.
“We have been looking for something just like this project that supports our mission,” stated Blaire Siems, Executive Director of United Way of Wapello County. “The project team,” (comprised of Taren Ferguson -Job Corps, Ruston Ford- Indian Hills Community College; Sean Flattery- Rippling Waters, Monica McBee- JBS and Juanita Weyenberg – Ottumwa Community School District) “did a great job of doing the research and creating a program that can be sustainable,” state Siems.
Ottumwa Leadership Academy provides each team with a $500 budget. The K-3 Literacy project team used that and an addition $300 donated by another team to purchase the books for the reading program. Those interested in volunteering to help children in the reading program can contact the United Way of Wapello County at 641-682-1264 or visit their website at http://www.wapellocouw.org/