Staff Scene: Deanna Kennedy

Deanna Kennedy, Site Coordinator

Site coordinator Deanna Kennedy is the first to admit that Power Read is a reading program, but more importantly, she says, it’s a relationship program. “And if you look at it that way,” she emphasizes, “it has a much bigger effect on Power Read. It becomes a place where mentors can be a positive beacon for change.”

Deanna joined EWI as a mentor in the spring of 2018. Later that year she became a site coordinator. “I really didn’t want to stop mentoring, but I realized that as a site coordinator I could help a lot more students, so I said I’d do it,” she says. Deanna coordinates Power Read at Moore and Hubbell elementary schools in Des Moines and works hard to help the mentors develop meaningful relationships with their students. “Many people are hesitant or cautious in new relationships, and I’m flagrantly the opposite of that,” she observes. “To me, each student is a living, breathing, loving person, so I say, ‘Let’s just do it.’”

Deanna starts developing the student-mentor relationships as soon as Power Read begins each fall. “I watch to see which kids are having physical issues, who can’t sit still and listen,” she notes. “For some of them, that will make their brains explode.” Those students, she says, might need to move their feet or fingers. They might need to stand, or they might need to play word games. Sometimes she chats with mentors on the phone in the evening to devise helpful strategies. A positive relationship with their mentor also translates into a positive relationship between the student and school, she notes.

“Ultimately, we need to meet the kids where they are and gently lead them to a love of reading,” she says. “We’re not here to teach them to read; they have their teachers and reading instructors who specialize in that. I work with the mentors to help them understand this is a love program. As a mentor, you’re at Power Read to be their number one cheerleader.”