Reading Champions: 2,496 students emerge from Greenwich United Way Literacy program

Greenwich United Way Board member, Bill Finger presented medals to students.

Greenwich United Way Board member, Bill Finger presented medals to students.

Greenwich United Way Reading Champions graduation ceremonies kicked off this month. A total of 458 students will graduate this year from the organization’s flagship volunteer program that focuses on developing literacy skills for elementary school students in Greenwich. Close to 2,500 students have completed this program since 2008 when the program launched with co-founder Joan Lowe in collaboration with the Greenwich United Way Youth Service Coordinator.

Reading Champions is a partnership between Greenwich United Way and Greenwich Public Schools. Unlike any other in town, the program depends on trained volunteers to use a unique curriculum to help students read with better proficiency and ease. The program is narrowing the achievement gap in Greenwich and quickly growing throughout the town. Last December Reading Champions expanded into a 14th site at Old Greenwich School with 12 tutors and 26 students and now partners with almost every Greenwich elementary school in addition to; the Byram Archibald Neighborhood Center (BANC), Community Centers, Inc., the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich, and the YWCA of Greenwich.

Along with the new site, Kaitlin M. Roig-DeBellis who is known as the Inspirational Teacher from Sandy Hook Elementary, Author of ‘Choosing Hope: Moving Forward from Life’s Darkest Hours’ and Founder of non-profit, Classes 4 Classes ( became the first Reading Champions Ambassador. DeBellis keynoted the 8th annual Reading Champions volunteer appreciation tea at the Woman’s Club of Greenwich on Thursday, May 19.

“I loved what Joan said to me when we first met, in describing what she says to her students when she first meets them. ‘You are good at reading now, I’m going to make you a champion.’ She then described the look on the child’s face: ‘joy!’. These students are champions, they are determined to be the best readers that they can be, and Reading Champions empowers that desire and drive” said DeBellis at the Old Greenwich School opening and ribbon cutting ceremony last December.

Graduation ceremonies kicked off on May 3 at the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich with a total of 42 students, each student receiving a Reading Champions certificate, medal and new book. Since then 18 kindergarten students graduated at North Mianus School, 23 students graduated at Cos Cob School, 27 kids graduated at North Street School, 33 graduated at Julian Curtiss School, 31 graduated at North Mianus School, 26 graduated at Riverside School today and 21 will graduate at International School of Dundee tomorrow. Also this week, 18 will graduate at Hamilton Avenue School.

On May 31, 10 will graduate at Y.W.C.A. of Greenwich, 38 will graduate at New Lebanon School and 51 students will graduate at BANC. On June 9, the final ceremony will take place with 27 students graduating at Old Greenwich School with Program Ambassador, DeBellis in attendance.

Reading Champions information and volunteer applications are available through the Greenwich United Way website at Questions related to the literacy program should go to Program Coordinator, Marie Wardell, [email protected]

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