From The Santa Maria Times
Reading levels of students in the Santa Maria area have risen dramatically as a result of a literacy and workforce readiness program run by Peoples' Self-Help Housing.
The Youth Education Enhancement Program is helping students in third through 12th grades improve reading scores using "Reading Plus," a computer and tablet interface that aids students with vocabulary, comprehension and reading.
“It’s research-based, and has been really effective,” said Alejandra Mahoney, senior manager of educational programs at Peoples' Self-Help Housing, which partnered with United Way to implement "Reading Plus."
When the after-school program started last December, only 8 percent of the 59 Santa Maria students enrolled were reading at grade level.
In September, the percentage of that same group who were reading at or above grade level increased to 80 percent.
"When we started, we just wanted to see how it worked," said Daniel Maldonado, supervisor of the Youth Education Enhancement Program in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. "The statistics are very impressive."
The program, implemented at affordable housing complexes, is helping 101 students countywide.
"I'm very proud of all the students," he said.
Maldonado was a student in the Youth Education Enhancement Program before moving on to attend UCSB. After attending college, he returned as the program's coordinator.
“It’s really nice coming back home and to the community,” he said.
The students in the program attend a full school day before coming to the program, so overall, they receive about 10 hours of education a day.
However, both statistics and student reaction are showing positive results.
“I’ve learned how to read faster and understand vocabulary words,” said Vanessa Nunez, 11, of Santa Maria.
Nunez read at a third-grade level before using the program. Nine months later, she is reading at a sixth-grade level, books about mysteries and adventures but, mainly, personal experiences.
“It’s helped me read faster at school,” she said of the program. “It makes me feel proud of myself.”
Noah Tuggay, of Guadalupe, said that the program has “helped me read a lot better and longer books.”
“It’s fun reading chapter books and picturing them in my mind. I like reading books about fantasy and adventure,” he said.
Tuggay began the literacy program reading at a second-grade level and now is reading at a sixth-grade level, even though he’s only in fifth grade.
The Youth Education Enhancement Programs has nine locations throughout Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, part of the larger picture of Peoples' Self-Help Housing. The programs are situated on affordable housing campuses and serve mainly students who live in the complexes.
Krista Chandler covers education in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast News. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @KristasBeat.