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Celebrating reading improvement

No skill is more important to learning than reading, and when students improve their reading skill, their overall confidence, engagement, and self-esteem also increase. Wishing to truly make an impact upon MPS students, the Downtown Rotary Club developed a plan, rolled up their sleeves, and engaged with students, providing new bicycles as incentives to children who showed the most improvement.

Since 2012, the Downtown Rotary Club has been scheduling members alongside volunteers from the UWM Center for Community Based Learning, Leadership and Research in two MPS schools: Brown Street Academy and Oliver Wendell Holmes School. Rotary members and volunteers are in classrooms every day from 8 to 11 a.m., working with children in kindergarten through grade 5.

The rise in student reading, as measured by MAP testing, has been staggering. About 74 percent of students have shown improvement, with many students improving about 20 percent, and a few improving as much as 60 percent. Each year since 2012, at the end of the first semester and again at the end of the school year, new bicycles and helmets have been presented to children with the greatest gains or showing exceptional effort.

Barbara Velez is the Rotary liaison at Brown Street Academy. She tackles the complex task of scheduling Rotary members and UWM volunteers in classrooms. Since narrowing the club’s volunteer efforts to two schools in 2012, the impact has been visible and exhilarating. “Each year, all of our volunteers tell me that watching the students’ progress is exciting. We are seeing how much the children benefit by having a caring adult take an interest in them and support them,” said Velez. “This experience is enriching for the children and the volunteers alike.”

MPS continually seeks corporate and community partners to pair with schools and deliver maximum impact. The Downtown Rotary Club also provides school uniforms and swimming lessons to the two schools it has adopted, in addition to the bikes and volunteer time. The club also finances daily field trips for a full week so students can learn and explore at the Urban Ecology Center.

Brown Street Academy, Oliver Wendell Holmes School, and the entire MPS family is grateful for the hard work of the Downtown Rotary Club and UWM service learning students!

Brown Street Academy is located at 2029 N. 20th Street in Milwaukee.

Oliver Wendell Holmes School is located at 2463 N. Buffum Street in Milwaukee.

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About Milwaukee Public Schools

Milwaukee Public Schools is committed to accelerating student achievement, building positive relationships between youth and adults and cultivating leadership at all levels. The district’s commitment to improvement continues to show results:

  • More MPS students are taking college-level Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses;
  • The MPS Class of 2018 earned $86+ million in scholarships; and
  • MPS is home to seven of the state and nation’s top high schools according to U.S. News and World Report and the Washington Post.

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