Jenna Reed, 18, a senior at Manitou Springs High School in Manitou Springs, rescued and rebuilt a failing literacy tutoring program after it was cancelled by school officials. “Over the last 12 years I have been challenged by dyslexia, so reading has been a main part of my life,” Jenna said.
After two years of volunteering at a local site of the Children’s Literacy Center, she learned that school officials were abandoning the project. “When I began to see everything that I worked on so hard going to waste, I had to save it,” she said.
Jenna sought funding and support from community groups, attended school board meetings and lobbied for permission to restart the program. “It was hard for them to understand that a 16-year-old could accomplish this.” Finally, Manitou Springs Elementary School agreed to a trial period of one semester. Jenna persuaded the school librarian to help, then recruited 20 adult and teen volunteers to work with 15 elementary students. After one semester, tests showed that the students had advanced an average of 1½ grade levels in reading.
The program has continued and Jenna hopes it will find a permanent place in the school. “Every child that cannot read needs the same type of help I received so many years ago,” she said.