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SMART 030418

Mar 2, 2018|

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS OTIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SMART, START MAKING A READER TODAY, ABOUT THE VOLUNTEER WORK THEY DO READING TO KIDS AND HAVING KIDS READ TO THEM.

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

This is an interest of and Entercom radio Portland public affairs program and Gary blocks of in on this show I like to introduce you to nonprofits around the Portland metro area that maybe you know about or maybe you don't know about. Do you know about Smart but we're gonna learn about it today on the show this time I would like to welcome Chris onus Chris is the executive director. Of smarts welcome Chris and kids. Had to be here to tell me about Smart Smart as an acronym for something right Smart stands for a start making a reader today. And we RA statewide enough for profit that for the past 26 years has been focused on one thing. And that is supporting some overstay its youngest students as they begin to learn to read. And there's a specific age group leader focusing on correct yes we're working with pre K students through third grade primarily because that is when children are. Beginning to get prepared to enters school. And then as they enter school they're beginning to understand that reading and learning to read and the most important. Thing that we can do for students at that age is to really be support them is to begin to its feet. I was reading through some of human cereal and it says third grade is about the time when kids stop. Learning to read and start reading to learn. Exactly they were back to many people are referred to that is really sort of pivot point. And everything that is happening at least in terms of literacy and reading prior to that. Is getting kids to the point where they can read and then after that it is really that reading to learn and if children aren't at that what we called benchmark by third grade it really just becomes much more challenging for them academically. So how does the program workers do you have Mullen tears is that correct that's exactly correct it's a very simple motto all that is based sign it. When I like to think it was sort of or again weigh in getting folks involved so we're engaging community members adult volunteers. Who agreed to spend an hour week. Reading with one child for thirty minutes and another child with for his thirty minutes and they go into. School sites across our state and simply. So it was HI am missing child each week same day same time and spanned those thirty minutes enjoying books. That sounds really played a fun thing to do. It's sort of the volunteers love hath well you're exactly right in fact we hear from a lot of our volunteers who will say. Wow I got involved with the program because I was really interest in in supporting kids in my community. But lead I realized after I was in the program is set I as much or more out of it then the kids did. Okay tonight that's on my speed net. Let's so tell me about how drew students get picked out to be part of the Smart program. So. Again we're working with young students in pre K two is third grade. And it. With the exception of a couple of our programs who are serving every child in the class Jimenez primarily in our pre K sending and some of our kindergarten programming. But in what we call the standards for our program our teachers are the ones who are den of identifying students for this Maher program. And they've died and number of different criteria that they can look at certainly one of those who would be whether or not a student is reading. At benchmark car with their peer group. And so at least teachers won't know at particular child may need some additional one on one time. They may understand that a student might not have access to a lot of books in their homes so we give down some. Sort of broad criteria to pick from and trust are teachers to know which of the students may benefit most from the services in the early knoller students pretty well we like to think so huh. How does one volunteer for Smart. Super easy in we gather volunteers from across this state and folks what access us on our website which is just WWW. Get Smart. Or you end up bored and from there I said stepped in click process. We're of the idea for Smart come from. The age difference march came from on number members of our business community into when he six years ago. Who were. Concerned about the number of students to really work meeting that statewide benchmark for reading. And yet it interestingly. Brown the man turned to the formal education assisting them and say to them you ought to fix this problem. Their response was what can we do to support him be apart. Does solution for our young student says they did some research. And looked down what are sort of the best practices and things ago wind to making for a successful early literacy. And built the program around that and their very simply. Access to books and shared reading time which is why were bringing adults together with kids for urges simply enjoying books exploring books. And then we're actually gaining each child in the program books to take with them in keep. Okay let me ask them maybe it seems like kind of a silly question but why is reading so important. It it may seem like a silly question then is a very important question and thank those of us to. Some are good readers or feel like we always have dang good readers may take it for granted by. Reading is I would sit meant not only sort of a gateway academic skill but really ache. Lay six cents skill and there is planning your research that will bear that out for instance and particularly for our program. Well we know is that. Third grade reading and where students are ranked third grade is an indicator of high school success in graduation in of his student is in treating. And its benchmark by third grade chances are there four times less likely to graduate from high school than their peers who. Our. That's a pretty remarkable statistic right. And it's probably just. Enlighten their imagination quite a bit too right exactly in fact our program is very intentionally built. Not to teach reading that is best left in the hands of the folks who were trained to do that but to support. Students as they're learning to read an hour side of the equation is really pushing on them enjoyment factor says where. Whining our students to. Enjoy opening a book and exploring what's inside their pages we want them to build confidants. To feel excited about reading and when I'm. Sharing that program with folks layoff an ascent to think about something that they are really good dad. And chances are if you're really good is some thing you also enjoy doing it so the more you do it. The better you get and that's the theory behind what we're doing we want kids to be excited about reading and enjoying reading so they'll do more of it. That's great. I'm how many students to Smart server across the across the state amateur and throw Portland. So important in Mercer being closed to 3000. Students. In about ninety sites in that tri county area. But across the state this year will hit to a movie for us in new benchmark which will be about 111000 students by the time we finish our program Mir which will be in day. And where I'm really only able to do that with the support of almost 5000 volunteers who will partner with us every week to go in the Stew this into the schools and make it happen 5000 volunteers. That's something that's a lot of volunteers. Well an over the course of that 26 years that we've been around we've been fortunate to work went about a 130000. Oregonians who said pick me. I'm in and they have helped us support more than 200000 students tell me about some of the volunteers what are the what are they like where it would. What walks of life to the come from him much prevailing human Niemi in the area are our friends our neighbors our colleagues who say. I'm interested in getting engaged so we have men and women. And young adults seniors I mean. Folks if often tends to bulls say. Well do I have to know how to teach reading to be engaged senior program and the reality is no Roy you simply have to do. Is no matter Reid and have an interest and money takes him enjoyment out and spending some time with the young student ten and our students it's interesting. The first couple times two volunteers are paired with their student and they get together there's a little hesitation on everybody's part about what this going to be like. But by the time we're into may be in week six of their program. When the students arrive in the classroom the Smart room wherever this session is taking place. You can see their eyes light up as they connect to win there readers so. It becomes. Such and super simple easy and fun thing for everybody to do and at the become lifelong friends. I we'd like to think and how it happened yeah I mean there's certainly a relationship that is developing and some of our. Volunteers stay in the same schools year every year and they've had the good fortune of spending a secondary miniature deer may do with that same students so. Part of what we are trying to do is is help a little bit of her relationship. Established because it is the same volunteer with the State's same student. From October through May every week. How long does a student typically stay in the program. What we're we're hopeful that there are at least in one full program year which could run October through May and we do have some students who will come. Or be. In writing to the program many teachers a year over year but so. In generally speaking it's more it's it's it's at least a program year. Okay we're talking today with Chris so this executive director of spark which is start making a reader today. Can you give us some success stories looked what kind of outcomes are you seeing. Well as you might imagine we are focused on the the outcomes. What's happening for students and I think we wanna. We all know that spending time sharing books and getting inside the pages. Seems into it if played Blake a good thing for students and we're happy that that's. The data really does bear that out and we've done a couple of studies one was a longitudinal study that tracked students four or five years. And found. A couple of years out of the program the students were still. Ahead of the game. From from where they had been informed here's who had not been in the pro remain generally speaking we're seeing about 95% of our students. Showing some nice improvements around things that we know to be important in terms that they grasping what to stories about out. Are they recognizing some words. And it and we gather that data honor students individually but we're also gathering information from principals and teachers. And our principles Rupp will report that across the boy word. In dared. Individual schools probably 8590%. Of the stewed hands. Are showing gains Booth in reading motivation and an interest. And word recognition and things like that and and importantly that this program in the student senate then. Uh huh than fortune to begin in there really contributing to an overall. Increased cultural literacy in their schools. Motivation artists from leave the big key part do you think. Absolutely. I mean feat again if you think about what would you like to GO. And the fact that you like to do it motivates you to do it in and that is really think they're crux of what we're trying to do is get our students. Engaged in first at the very young ages understanding that inside those pages of that blunt. Is his story or there are pictures that they're interested and and for our older students you're actually learning to read and know how to read. We want them to feel excited about the different kinds of stories at their reading the different people that they're exploring in their books so that they are motivated. To read more and become better and successful readers. Do you see him behavioral changes heard were students that may be. Kind of were embarrassed before they were in the program and now they have much more self confidence. We have volunteers record that to us a lot of and in fact it's one and then data points that we gather. From our teachers is what level of confidence does this student show. In reading or motivation around reading and I can tell you from my own experience is iMac. Reader in the program as are all the other. Teen Smart members and I had a a young student to. At the beginning of our time together if you'd asked me if I thought he could read. I would say no but what I realized is that he was just in incredibly show I reader in shy individual finish I reader. And the more that we got you know one another the more he was willing to first whispered the words and then get. More confident about reading a story that must've been really exciting day. Lose it's wonderful I mean it's and in fact they just came from my. I am I reading session and it an almost doesn't matter how you start today when I want candidate reading sessions like well that was a really good hour of time and it was fine inning gauging and I have the new pair this year with two kids two are independently very very energetic show we say. And damned will spend time reading that we spend time talking and simply enjoying their time together. What kind of time commitments do volunteers but what can they expect. We ask our volunteers to make an hour a week commitment from that time frame of early October through the middle of may. And to. Nick and and that and then sit in an hour week and down. Which seems to work for many people so where how they get to sign them up and get ready to go and they read in the schools is that correct. Our programs are running wind up 300 sites across the state. And most of those are elementary school sites are. Predominant pre K partner is head start soaring many heads starts across the state. And then we're in a couple of other independent creek case and are there specific times of day and when volunteers are needed to resume throughout the day. We're running primarily Monday through I was hair programs are more heavy Monday through Thursday that we do some Friday programming. And their way during school hours we have a very small number of afterschool programs running but those are more the exception rather than the norm so is pretty much during the school day. Chris Tony and tell me your background and how you got involved with Smart. I had a van. In enough for profit arena and I entire career. And before I came to smarter I would is had the good fortune. In the executive director for another not for profit. In Portland in a sense of a child abuse prevention program. And we you're working wind families in our community who had very young children under five. And months of complications in their life and we were our services were really designed to. Seem that we can do to put some support surrounding family is there to stabilize a family and keep children in their home. And it in men and it was a very much of prevention program for many children from being removed in two Foster care. And in Summers banks it was. A lighter gentler version of a Smart in some ways Smart is about prevention like can we do to support kids now. So they can become good readers so we can set trajectory for them academically and then by fleiss. In two very successful and positive pattern says that the mission of the organization immediately saying to me when I and and I became aware of of this opportunity and little over seven years ago to me what is the what is that mission. We are very dedicated to one thing is that is supporting this young students in our state to become good readers. That seems pretty simple yet and we had that's been in north Starr for us for herb. 26 years and while that program has. And the delivery has in new wants to a little bit says that we continue to be relevant in the school day into our school partners. The thing that we have never veered off is that's who we're about is how can we help our State's youngest students. He had a good an early and successful start in reading. And that I am reading here that Smart is teaming up with Powell's. We'll talk about that are that's exciting so houses then. At that fact and wonderful and very long term partner for us all tie it and Michael Powell is the one who coined for us the Smart Akron them for years and years ago when he was a member of our founding board but. They have banned a wonderful supporter of Smart. And they are teaming up with some daring in March fur promotional opportunities so. Customers at the store who are buying books will be asked if they're interested in rounding up. I am I think it's 22 dollars and 65. Cents. And choose support to it which is actually the cost of a book for one of our Smart students over the course said that. Program year our students each hit fourteen brand new books to take home and keep. So this effort with Powell's is to engage our community and helping us buy books for those kids have reached. Each rounding up peach two dollars and 65 cents you know directly into buying a book for whenever Smart. It's how that's awesome that rounding up thing it really is a successful way to raise money absolutely and so simple for personally meet have of course all brown thinks she'll do that so we expect seed on apparel this weekend and I. We'll do that. I'm what type of books are you reading to kids. We are read being high interest books is what we called them we've done now lotteries search around. What is it they key is who want to read and it. And sometimes and we intuitively think well what we want in our Smart collection are nothing but the classics. And that's true we want those kinds of books in our collection but we want what kids are interested again. And because of a kid is interest in a book and dale died intent that we have added over the last couple of years to our book collection. What we would call window in Mira books are multi cultural books so we're winding for students in our program. To have the opportunity to open a book and deceive themselves and their family members in that book. But we also want to give them the opportunity to see someone else's world. In that book so we spend a lot of time issue might imagine sorting through in vetting and working with our publisher partners on the books that we. Eventually bring into the collection for our students. Fouls that's it's probably not worn peace Lutheran Kenseth who another back right now I. Blame at the consistent low of that so much when they. They start to understand what's going on oh they do they do end and not in the book ground. So twice. Twice a month is book giveaway day so. Once a kid's event in the program for or a month or so. They did very savvy to the fact that I owe who twice who we are twice a month I get to pick a book out and take it and keeping it. So they'll often come in is it book giveaway day today. And these are and that's just any old book these are brand new books and first some of our students. It's the first opportunity that they may have had. To have a book that he's just for them that they get to crack open the pages and put them both played in there and put their name incited and taking it in keeping it and treasurer for and pressure that actually do have it's. Some students we've been around long enough now that. Some of our early Smart students have now come back and volunteered or they shared their stories with us about what it was like to be in the program. And I remember hearing one story from a young woman who said. My mom kept all those books that I brought home with me from the Smart program and I still have them oh that's so sweet. What kind of feedback do you get from the parents of the students. We gather a lot of feedback from our parent says that bad by virtue of how we're set up for a not couple generations removed from day to day interaction with the parents of our students. So for that reason and we send information home to make sure they know about the program we often send. Reading tips home on with our student says in the form of a bookmark and tips for parents on easy ways to read with your child. And it at the end of each year were gathering information from them via a survey around. Time dissed their reactions to the program their Childs your reactions to the program. An overwhelmingly. We have parents say. I can't thank you enough for inviting my student in my child into this program and we gets an amazing. Quotes from them about eight you know my son or my daughter was an interest in reading that while they come home now and they're excited to open a book so. All of that just in every day we don't allow I think he might be part of doing some good for kids in the state. And the program is free for students has occurred accidentally tree. Yes that's great in fact we're working went. Bernama across our state predominantly. Schools that are title one schools where there are higher percentages of students who qualify for a free and reduced price lunch is he certainly knows that. Limited income can be a barrier for a lot of things in academic success to be one of them. If somebody listening wasn't able to volunteer as a reader though there are the ways people can help out. That's so perfect bush and there's absolutely anyways for people to get involved because we love to invite everyone in to be a reader and in some ways I think that makes for. The fullest in Rich's experience of Smart we have a number of donors which is the other way that he booking get involved with us. But some of our donors are actually readers as well. And it gives NF firsthand exposure to what this program is really about but our program is in the main. Fired by two things and that is the people who volunteer for us. And their resources that our community members share with us say we're happy to take any and all sized donations to support our work. And you'll committee donations on the website for an absolutely on the web site. In terms of other ways that people can support our program. Certainly they can make a donation better ram a state we have. A number of what we caller service areas and in that and I in those areas we have staff who are charged with running the program and then helping to raise local support for the program so they are off then. Sponsor paying special events to support the Smart about it on the Smart program. And in fact we have an event coming up in April in Salem an information about that is on our website and it's a great way to be. Not only introduced to the program but feel good about supporting it a local programming your community. Aniston wants more information tell us so we and could we can get that information. Being gay just about anything you need to know now Smart on our website at touchy about how to volunteer with says lots of information about. The program itself and their research foundations of what we're due ink. There is information about why reading is important how the program operates so is sort of one stop shopping there and to also what's a lot more time. It is Debbie Debbie Debbie you get Smart or again dot org. Also Chris illnesses have been Superfund thank you so much extra target to us about Smart things on my pleasure thanks. We were talking with Chris Otis executive director of Smart. May microscope is an Entercom radio Portland public affairs program I'm Gary blocks and if you're involved with the nonprofit or public affairs organization or do you have an idea for an upcoming show I'd like to hear from you. This is the microscope PDX dot com and submit your ideas you can also go to the station's website and submit your information there. Thanks for listening to metals gold can enjoy the rest of your weekend.