Reading mentors range from middle-school pupils to people in their 80s.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
LIBERTY -- Reading mentors at E.J. Blott Elementary School know they are making a difference.
"You can see them thrive. You can see them change," Air Force Master Sgt. Gary Yonchak said of the two pupils he helps with reading skills.
Yonchak, one of 15 permanent staff members at the Youngstown Air Reserve Base in Vienna, was among 150 current and past mentors honored at the school Thursday.
Sandra Zians, director of Help One Student to Succeed, said the program began in March 2000 with a $60,000 state OhioReads grant.
The school has 142 mentors helping third- and fourth-graders. The mentors range from middle-school pupils to people in their 80s.
Their qualifications? "You need to be able to read and love children," Zians said.
Sixty pupils are being mentored this year in 30-minute classes.
Seeing results: Yonchak, former Brookfield police chief, and others from the air base took on mentoring as a project at the request of Zians.
"It was not only a good project, but we could see the results," the Masury man said.
He mentors a boy and a girl. The girl, Yonchak pointed out, has become more confident and focused, while the boy has become more aggressive in reading more material.
Later this month, the pupils will tour the air base.
Mother's contribution: Christine Williams of Liberty, a business consultant with the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, became a mentor because her children are Blott pupils and OhioReads has Gov. Bob Taft's backing.
"I wanted to do my part locally. The kids are eager to learn. They work so hard for you," Williams said, noting that it also allows her to spend more time in the school her children attend and can help her fourth-grade son's classmates.
"This is so important to them. The kids generally know we care about them," she said.
Retired teacher: Gretchen Reed retired in 1992 after teaching Liberty third-graders for 32 years. She's the mentor coordinator.
Reed said she got involved in the program because she volunteered regularly at Blott after her retirement.
"I'm thrilled with the results," she said.
Zians noted that of 22 pupils recently tested, 17 of them made reading improvements of one to three years.
"I'm seeing wonderful results," Zians said.