Polly Cordell

Daily Point of Light # 3349 Dec 5, 2006

Polly Cordell is an exceptional example of a volunteer based on her vision, community service efforts and passion for positively impacting illiteracy. During the mid-1990s, many local residents noted the decline of student reading skills. Polly realized that this was a major crisis in Brevard County and that illiteracy would negatively impact the poor children the most. Polly thought: “Why not connect the local affluent retired population and utilize their talents to provide free extra reading instruction for the struggling children who were performing in the bottom half on the state achievement test?”

Rolling Readers Space Coast’s (RRSC) objectives are three pronged: to fight children's illiteracy, foster a lifelong love of reading, and to improve reading comprehension. The unique and ingenious concept of RRSC is that it developed a collaboration that melds local adult volunteers, elementary schools and businesses while directly addressing the Federal educational mandate, No Child Left Behind.

The local school district was thrilled to get intervention assistance. The immediate reading skills improvement of the children caught the community’s attention and demand for the RRSC services exploded. What sets Polly above other volunteers is that even at age 82, she embraces new trends in education and is flexible in her thinking in order to best address the changing needs of the low income children she strives to help. Polly exemplifies the goal of “become the change you wish to see in the world” rather than just sitting in a rocking chair and bemoaning the shortcomings of the younger generation.

Polly's dream of making a difference in the community by helping local children took shape with the startup of a Rolling Readers chapter in Melbourne in 1997. From the simple beginning in Polly's kitchen with five volunteers reading in two schools, nine years later RR has grown to provide 394 trained Read Aloud volunteers in 30 Brevard County Title 1 schools, (schools that have a large number of financially disadvantaged families) with an additional 65 trained Tutor/Mentor volunteers in 13 schools, and an annual budget of $89,000. Besides managing the finances, Polly personally oversees the ordering and distribution of 8,000 new books that are purchased by RRSC and given free to each child participating in the program. With Polly at the helm, RRSC achieved non-profit incorporated status in 2003 and keeps on growing. Polly is not a figurehead but a tireless worker who is not only aware of all phases of the operation-from fund raising to public relations to recruiting volunteers to paying the bills.

Rolling Readers has become an established, successful resource in Brevard County! Without Polly's inspiration, which stems from her personal childhood experiences, thousands of disadvantaged Brevard County children would not have been motivated to read or received the extra help they needed to master reading skills.