This month, we are starting our first monthly feature focused on our staff to highlight some of the faces that help to organize the Everybody Wins! Iowa programs. The honor of being our very first featured site coordinator goes to Amber Juffer.
This is Amber’s first year in the site coordinator role. She is currently coordinating at Greenwood Elementary this summer, but during the school year, Amber coordinates our Power Read program at St. Theresa’s Elementary.
Amber started mentoring at St. Theresa’s in 2015 and was a mentor for a year before becoming a site coordinator.
“I really enjoyed my student and got to experience the sincere relationship that can happen from simply showing up week after week and focusing all my attention on him,” Amber said. “I was amazed at how much his confidence grew over the year!”
The next year, Amber decided to try out the site coordinator position since there was a need to fill at the school. She said that the position entailed a bit more than she had originally realized, but has adjusted quite nicely into her position.
“Now, I am really enjoying the role that a coordinator plays,” Amber said. “Making sure all the pieces are there for successful relationships to form and lots of shared reading to happen!”
Amber said that her favorite part of coordinating at St. Theresa’s this year was getting to know all of the other mentors.
“They are a great group!” Amber said. “Many of them have been volunteering with us for several years, and honestly, they really are naturals! It was nice to be able to provide the little bit of structure they needed and then watch them go.”
When she started at Greenwood this summer, Amber said that her first day was a bit hectic. However, she was glad that she still had a few of her mentors comment on how wonderful their students were.
“In just a few minutes, they had already made a connection and were really excited about it,” Amber said.
Amber said she is happy to be a small part of Everybody Wins! Iowa because of the impact that it has in Central Iowa.
“I believe that we are making a positive difference in our community,” Amber said. “I’m looking forward to all that is ahead!”
Our Volunteer of the Month is Emily Secrest. Emily is currently a mentor and a site coordinator, and was formerly an intern with Everybody Wins! Iowa.
Each Thursday this summer, Emily is serving as a mentor at Monroe Elementary to a young girl named Serenity. The two have only been reading together for a couple of weeks, but Emily said that the two of them are already starting to really connect.
“I think being a mentor means being a stable figure in a child’s life,” Emily said. “Being that (consistent) person that comes and reads to them every week, even if you don’t think it’s much, it is.”
Having a reading program available during the summer months is important, Emily said, because a lot of kids won’t read over the summer unless they are asked to.
“This program helps to get them to read during the summer,” Emily said. “That’s what I like most about it.”
Emily is also a site coordinator at Willard Elementary on Mondays this summer, which puts her in charge of organizing the program at Willard, As a site coordinator, she does her best to keep the mentors and students in the program on track, answer any questions they may have, and provide a great overall reading experience for everyone.
This isn’t Emily’s first time in the site coordinator role, however. She was also a site coordinator at Walnut Street School this Spring when she first started her internship.
Once she adjusted to being a site coordinator at Walnut Street, Emily picked up several other small roles. She assisted other office staff with various tasks such as volunteer outreach and data entry.
“I think the biggest thing that I took away from my internship was how important community development is,” Emily said. “Even if you only have five hours a week to make a difference, it makes a difference. Just do it and go for it.”
Emily completed her internship with EWI this month and will continue to serve as site coordinator and a mentor. After her service with the program, Emily said that she does really see the benefits of reading with a child each week.
“I feel like it helps their confidence a lot more in reading,” Emily said. “That helps so much for them to have confidence to take up a book and read by themselves at home.”
Thank you so much for your service with Everybody Wins! Iowa, Emily!
Our May Mentor of the Month is Anu Vaitheswaran. Anu has been reading with Everybody Wins! Iowa for an impressive 11 years!
Anu is a mentor at Capitol View Elementary and just finished up her 2nd year of reading with her latest mentee, Kimberly.
One part of reading with EWI that Anu really enjoys is the various ways that students learn through reading.
“I’ve been very impressed with how some children learn things from stories that I might not have seen at first glance or pick up aspects of a story that might not have been apparent to me,” Anu said. “And I think that’s an aspect of the reading program that has just made me very happy to be a part of it.”
Marty Katz, site coordinator for Capitol View Elementary, said that we are very privileged to have Anu as a mentor in our program.
“We are grateful that she is willing to devote her time and effort to our program particularly in light of her demanding responsibilities as an appellate court judge,” Marty said.
Anu has enjoyed her time reading with Kimberly and believes that Kimberly has also grown to enjoy their time spent reading together.
“I feel as if I’m less of a mentor than simply a friend that enjoys reading with another friend,” Anu said. “I enjoy seeing children light up when they like a story. I also enjoy seeing them try to read themselves, some of them are very proficient and really have fun reading on their own.”
Thank you, Anu, for being such a great mentor over the years!