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SMART - Start Making A Reader Today

Jul 24, 2009|

A discussion with Terry Shanley, CEO of SMART (Start Making A Reader Today) about his organization, what they do and how you can help. It's easier than you might think!

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Automatically Generated Transcript (may not be 100% accurate)

You're listening to -- -- -- -- series of interviews with people of interest in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington I'm your -- -- -- as we discussed on the program and -- passed the -- education system and for that -- -- -- national education system is suffering from our ailing economy as everyone -- -- -- seemingly never ending string -- budget -- class sizes -- bigger than -- and they don't seem to show any real sign of stopping -- -- fewer and fewer opportunities to spend one on one time with -- students and thereby making -- more and more likely to slip through the -- but thankfully there -- some organizations out -- trying to fill the -- and make a difference today I have with -- one such person -- -- the CEO of smart which stands -- start making a -- today -- -- I'm doing well -- There are you doing today. -- an all right I'm a little Luke we'll shake yet takeover of while multiple smooth out here does that connect. Before we get started let's give our listeners little bit of background on yourself and what it is you do with smart. Well. Just shy of two years ago I took over as the Chief Executive Officer of smart. And I was really honored to be approached by red letter to consider it. There's such a tremendous need for literacy support him in Oregon and throughout the country frankly. That I saw this as an opportunity to really make a difference in the community in states violated. Worst -- -- organization but at some point they could be appropriate for -- To expand nationally but we're not gonna do that whoever our model well established -- But at what what I do is is just manage the operations and the the development. Which is the acquisition of financial support. And other support. And manage the organization so that it is financially sustainable and and that is scalable so that we can grow and reach the rest and stay right we currently. We're serving 32 36 counties and at some point would like to get into the rest counties although some opera some. Are not heavily populated. It's a bit of -- of a challenge but what we get that done you know at some point in the future perhaps we'll look at. Make in the national organization. My responsibility really is to ensure that got the right vision that we're doing what we -- were going to do water to the mission -- and to make sure that we are financially viable we can continue to provide Serbs. All right let's get into what exactly that services what does smart new. Well smart is an organization that helps support the literacy challenges that we have in our in our schools. That teachers. Are so overloaded. The curriculum so packed. The classrooms or are loaded with kids they have a real uphill climb. And they need some support what we do is we provide one on one literacy support. We take community volunteers. Bring him into the into the school. The teachers identify those children that need some letters you support or they need a constant assault their lives or they respond better to one on one. Relationships than they do it about terms that. The teachers recommend those students to -- repair those students up with community volunteers to read what one on one. It is incredibly simple program. But these kids. Areas such desperate need of that kind of support between kindergarten. Third grade. Because if they're not reading at grade level by fourth greater trouble the curriculum is such that. Teachers can't four straight teach remedial reading. A read to learn. So what right do is help those kids learn to read and enjoy reading enjoyed it experiences built the confidence they need. To apply to the you know the balance of the school work. But we help them become more confident readers so that by the time there in fourth grade -- at grade level and can't keep up. And they can make different choices so much. Yet it would seem that the especially with the economy away is -- your parents working you know sometimes two or three jobs they don't necessarily have the time. To spend even if they want to there of course you have -- that parents who know don't seem to be interest in helping their children at all it's nice it's -- measure -- kind of fill in for that. Well it you know get them in a lot of ways we're sort of surrogate parents situations where. You know they've got families that are are broken -- challenged. Single parent homes Foster homes. Those kind of situations and those those kids didn't do anything to deserve. Being placed in the situations. And they you know. They're worthy of of -- support. So that's -- that would provide we we focus primarily on title one schools which means 40% free or reduced. Lunch programs often times just this course that we that we -- are up to 90%. There's one school of essential organs for example that is that the highest population of homeless children -- mile. And that's a little startling yeah you know -- thinking about children's school age between kindergarten and third grade that are homeless. Their options are very limited to marry -- -- just getting the kids to school on on a regular basis -- a challenge so. They're there extraordinary circumstances that that needed a little intervention if you will -- and that's the role that we play we teach those kids that. That there is an adult that does care about them. And that will be there week after week after week consistently and -- -- that develops with these kids that's probably isn't as important as anything that we do. While since these guys work through a pretty sizable volunteer base I would gas. Well yeah yeah that the that the need is extraordinary. We've we've mobilized between five and 101000 volunteers. Each and every year yet to pretty. Programming it's it's a it's a big machine to manage. How long is a program -- around. Since 1992. We started an eight schools and Portland and in central Oregon. And from there we've grown. Over lower our eighteen year now I need to we've we've grown into 32 out of 36 counties. Over the are over history we've Serbs just shy of 120000. Children. Promise of fantastic. It's pretty. So imagine so yeah I you have here in my notes that you guys who may have made some major changes to your volunteer base this last year tells about that how that went and why it. Well when I took over I saw that we had well I'll put it up put it this way. Our -- for the mission. They can -- -- ability to just but that's sure what that any what are the fundamental challenges that all non profits. Is that their mission driven. That's what gets all of us out of bed every day that we want to provide our service to as many children as many people were hurt our -- if you will. As we possibly can. Well that's great. Provided. You have the financial. Wherewithal to fund it well. What happened was smart over the course of the years is we got a little exuberant. Relative -- that the service we're providing try to reach as many kids as possible without really being mindful of the dollars it took to support that. Eyes are a little bigger than your stomach. Exactly yeah yeah. We we like to say that we we've we've got a little -- over skis. So we unfortunately. You know the program is is so highly revered that. We enjoyed some some financial success early on in built -- reserves. So without going into debt. As we were operating in the red we just supplemented that with some funding out of our reserve account. An investment accounts so from a financial standpoint were pretty decent shape but if you look going forward. We were not such good shape we were recognized in that we are spending more than we were. So you know you you've got to apply some some fundamental business practices to even on non profits are more poorly than non profits. Because that line between sustainability. And delivering your mission. It gets really clouded with with a passion they have for -- So we had to make a change away I recognize is that we are paying on site coordinators. And they coordinate the activity. That each and every one of the schools and one attendance that is sacred was smart is that we insure that those children are safe. Which means we we need to have somebody in the school while -- child is being read to by an adult. To oversee that. Wanna make sure that another adult as always in the room. Plus we've got to work with the teachers is scheduled three times. And make sure that these kids are matched up with volunteers that they recruit volunteers that's it it's so very very important job. But we had 200 -- and at minimum which is we are paying anywhere from ten to twelve -- -- anywhere from 812 dollars an hour. For about 1012 hours of work or W twos were. Right around 3000 dollars for the year. Doesn't seem like -- an awful lot of money. Now to multiply that times 200. Multiply that by 2200 -- all of a sudden you realize that we've got. A big expense. And a lot of them worked more than ten hours which resulted in a one million dollar impact to a four million dollar budget. While now wouldn't you guys -- any kind of government fund sooner or you operate solely off of condemnations. We primarily are a private donations it we do get are we develop all correct that we had received. Saddam and appropriation from the state. That helped despite books. It -- if it worked out to be about 67%. Of our overall budget. But it was helpful but this year it's got cut. So we are victims of the economy just like have an awful lot of other's strengths are so we get very little support. We do get some shift money the Children's Investment Fund. In Portland we get a little bit of money from them. And we get a little bit of we've got a little bit of federal money last year but that's yet we are uniting the seven pound 98%. Reliance on private donations that's Howard thought that. Wow yeah. In 97%. Yeah every year we serve with a clean slate. Let's say okay we've got to go raise that -- our -- two point eight million dollars when I took over here was four point two. We've -- -- budget that one point four million dollars. You know with the economy -- and is is harder and harder for people to make donations. To give them a little bit extra because a little bit extra just isn't there. Good you know what -- ten what's what's interstate is. Right now we see it -- divergence of conditions. We see resources. Reducing. And we see that needed increasing its so funny how that works there's Geathers is ever broadening GAAP. That have to be filled. By organizations like -- -- state programs are being cut education budgets are being cut. We still have these students and have this this tremendous need. And therefore not fair organization like -- isn't there the result negative -- so this just compounds it. The impact this compound at dawn on our society and our culture. Because you know these kids sit up -- interest at school tradition engaged because they're not keeping up so they. Withdraw an eight and up this part of the dropout rate. Now would be -- you to go about raising these funds I mean how how -- how is the message getting out the -- this particular. Radio program. Well here we we work with people just like you kids to help us get the message out. But the lion's share of my job is meeting with with -- People that can it. That have financial and human resources to help us with our costs. We depend a lot on foundations -- a lot of foundations out there that have children at their core mission and literacy at their core -- So we are very good friends with them that corporations throughout the state that provides support to us -- them. Individuals and their database I think it has number something like 70000 people that make contributions to us it's. Unless fantastic. What it's wonderful. But you know oddly enough it's still not sure you know it's there every year we've we've got a raise of about three million dollars to reach kids that -- reaching. No that doesn't divide offend -- 70000 to many times. No it doesn't but. Yeah I am blessed every single one of the 70 yeah absolutely and and I understand that that some of those are active that many of so. Of them are not so we're gonna be working with expanding and expanding adding yet. The back to the core question. That the money that we raised is done so. By the efforts of everybody -- organization talking with relationships and networking to drive awareness and -- support to the smart program. While -- -- it's fantastic work. If you just joining us you're listening to microscope a series of interviews with people of interest -- northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. I'm your host Ted Douglas as the economy seems to crumble slightly rebuild crumble again grumbling in crumble again we -- seen that. The education system is taking -- massive massive hit and a lot of cuts that are going on there make it easier and easier for illiteracy to slip through the cracks. But thankfully there are number of organizations out there that are trying to fill that gap and help out with a bit of extra support for our teachers who were doing their very very best to help these kids out one such group is called smart which stands for start making a reader today and I am speaking here with -- Shanley who is the sealed disorganization and we're discussing -- How they get their funds how you can help out and what exactly they do for all of us let's get into the nuts and bolts first hole how to how to people volunteer. Well there there are several play way to volunteer now. You can certainly coordinate the activities -- school and I'm very proud to tell you that -- 198. Paid coordinators we have many of them came back as volunteers because they believe the program. So poorly and so completely. But we've we've actually recruited 274. On site coordinators this past year. And I am really delighted to say that two thirds of those have already committed for next fall to come back its roots so there's an -- opportunity to coordinate schools now. You can either do that. By yourself or is it came up and Courtney activities the school received perhaps one person. Want to scheduling the other person. Wants to recruiting for volunteers. The other person wants to you know in Victorian managed to book giveaway you know there's a number of different ways to split up so there's a volunteer opportunities. The the core of what we do is done through volunteer readers -- that. Dedicate one hour a week starting mid October to mid may. For 28 weeks they meet with -- the same to children you -- half an -- peace with two different children four and our commitment week. And Ted I gotta tell it it is if there I don't myself our entire staff reads it's the best power I -- -- and we. Imagine those kids are just unbelievable. You make a connection with them you see their progress you see it grow -- confident. You know that you made a difference -- that is. About as fulfilling as an impeachment -- could have. So you can. And and even for that it's just an hour week. An hour a week. That's what's so incredibly simple and and a lot of or our business partners. Will allow their employees to come donate that hour a week on the payroll. -- that's just that's really really helpful. It just people that suggested to. It -- make a difference in the communities that. Just think a lot of times and with so many budget cuts and there are people who. This place blames what's going all the kids did too did teachers to the people the troops on the ground -- as -- war but I would imagine that but you know teachers server hamstrung by these budget cuts they they wanted to teach these kids they got into it for a reason they wanna do the best they can but did builds a class sizes are getting out of control there's just not enough time none of resources did to spend with each child so -- imagine they're. Probably pretty thrilled to seal. Well I hit it funny that you should mention that as we conducted acerbic when we always wanted to know. Where we really fit -- and we wanna make sure that. We're doing the right things and we're we're always trying to get feedback. About how we can improve it and I think the survey showed something like 94%. Of the teachers. That we -- -- throughout the state love having us there. It's it's just it's another resource. For they have to turn to to help with the literacy challenges they have with their kids and in the schools. It's a very challenging task. And delayed the responsibility. All this going on. On at the state teachers see this is wholly unfair their mission driven like we are they wanted to do the best they can do to help that check out these successful. Yet these are people who you know at some point decided. I'm going to be a teacher knowing full well this is not a high paying jobs this is an -- yeah it's it's rewarding in every other kind of way but it financially not so much. Exactly right and they see us as. Supplement what they do want to replace -- what they do right -- necessarily replicating what they do we're just supporting what is the state do. And we have the flexibility and latitude. To make it more fun. We don't have to hit the the benchmarks and milestones that No Child Left Behind requires teachers to do we we're not teaching to any tests we have the luxury of letting a child the person's cells in the story. But there imaginations run wild and man and that process. Become more confident. Because. We can't let a child read a book the same book 5678. Times doesn't matter to us. If they get comfortable that book and conflict. At the end of that process they begin to understand that they are capable of learning. And once they understand that. The world opens up to them they know now that they are capable. Of achieving that goal they are capable of learning. And making a difference in -- the past of their own lives will take they have more control. And once they realize that. That applies to every aspect to their lives it applies to -- the sciences is it to interpersonal relationships. To every. And that's really what smart. And I think that's something that a lot of people don't realize about schooling you think back to school me think now like to know. Math class when am I ever gonna need to know protect -- -- imperfect it's not necessarily that you need to know that. But when you learn how that works it helps teacher brain how to problem solved that how to get things done is saying things reading. That that's exactly right you think about it I can't even spell the tiger of -- -- But if you if you think about it everything that you do starts with your ability to read. Everything it can't be an actor without reading it can't be a fire -- without serious virtually nothing that you can accomplish without the ability to read. So. So it's a little bit important -- so -- -- -- -- the books in that volunteers are reading with the children. Where those books come from. We by the buying them yep we raise money to to -- during the program each child because again we're. I don't want schools primarily. Books are quite frequently not found that now. They just they don't have that the resource to -- go on the pick up a book and read it so they watch TV or whatever is is. There's some really good video games out there. Oh yeah -- Yeah admit in video games aren't necessarily our friend yeah. But what we do is is providing each child -- two books about 414. Months or two to seven months of our program totaling. Fourteen books peace. So that these these children can't. Take them home and read them and most times they'll read to their siblings. Or it tyranny. -- -- and we don't teach their parents to to read English cool so it you know it it goes beyond that it involves. -- the cases cash I'm reminded. A student that there for other first day he got his book. And volunteer reader sit to a -- this -- to take all. And you can read it as often as you want you can do whatever you want with it -- -- they'll be more books you start -- wipers burial. So quit write your name and with -- -- in the front of the books they write the names of the state. Own it they they feel like they. No lot of these kids probably don't have a lot of ownership and. And they'd they'd actually -- Well took the book com couple weeks later his book giveaway -- again and or -- readership you know going ahead and write your name of -- book because this is just like the first book you could take it home it's it's it's part of your own personal library. Read a desire to want is that it's simple stick. And that as a boy he -- first greater security -- the book on the side doesn't sign. So at the end of the half hour he's the readers as well. You understand it take his -- home right hand. Not -- yes said well put aside the jurors and it looked at him he says I can't. As if I write my name -- -- any marks in the book my mom and -- can't -- for a dollar for food. And I can't. And doesn't anymore are breaking the network. Talking about here yeah right made it even though we we provide the books some situations. You know it's -- that -- people are now. Why else but it's important that we that we -- of the books and it's of course is that it's an extreme -- but. Sure the Japanese and -- there. Exactly -- this isn't getting children support so that they can have some very own is important and people donate books. Yes that they can't we've got a program on our website where you could go to it and look at. What the criteria is obviously they've got to be. Age appropriate. That the gender and ethnicity appropriate those kinds of things and there's criteria that we have a website that will that will help for book donations. We've they've got to be new books is -- -- ones are -- the market conditions can become a question. Sure and that's that -- website is get smart organ dot org. Get smart Oregon out of oracle spilled out yeah. Great and you can also call 18775984633. To donate whatever -- -- you can donate. Your good. I think your -- -- gave me some copious notes okay -- it. Now you also have another thing this is very very simple if you are listening right now when your car if your home if you have a cell phone and you can text. And very very simple way to donate you can donate five dollars right now. By texting the word smart. 290999. That's 90999. You'll have your either text charges of applied for every your company charges you for that. But in addition you be donating five dollars this amazing program and I imagine that's for every time it excessive we have some more tax that a few times it store yeah. That is very simple you. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Well yeah as far as we know we're the first non profit did have a mobile giving campaign such as this. So we're we're really excited about the potential that's in the beauty of it is it's simple to -- shows up when your phone bill you can use that pre tax records. But the most important element. It's by his two books for a child take -- They don't. That's a result about it everybody to death it's it's it's a lot like the commercials you see on TV late night TV sponsor -- you do it's -- it's an honest they're going to throw five bucks out there if you can couple books well I tell you what that -- this is such a fantastic program and I hope this gets the word out for more people to know about it and I think that's that's probably the biggest uphill battle you face in getting funding is letting people know this exists is such a fantastic program -- I appreciate that very much. The east and I think it. That -- if you look at smart and and you look at programs like ours we we spent an awful lot of time as a culture. Intervening at the symptomatic. Level -- you know you -- once the problem we yeah we treat the symptoms. Because those. Get a little more immediate gratification as we -- this symptom OK okay but that doesn't cure the cost it significant as best a little bit of money. In the cause we can eradicate a tremendous social -- because these kids that come out of school either illiterates. For dropping out if they're gonna be underemployed. Are unemployed. Which means they're gonna be dependent upon state programs do to help with housing help with nutrition. To help with clothing and there are wonderful organizations that do just that but then you take a look at that population and they can't afford. Highly nutritional food -- they contract often times nutrition related illness. And if they can't afford health care. They still require it. They go to the emergency rooms because. The hospitals are required to provide care. Well they can't they're not compensated for that so they've got to recoup those expenses -- partially. The cost of services. Goes up for those who can't. You know the snake -- itself. Yeah exactly this we're paying higher health care costs. We're paying higher taxes to supports many of these programs. And statistically. There three times as likely to become incarcerated and the latest or department corrections statistics. Have that at about 25000 dollars per person per year to be incarcerated. Or you can text so. -- interest mark civilian tech support to the ninth 0999. And donate five -- you do that as many times you want. -- we are running out of time here -- wrap this up by -- if you would like to volunteer. Volunteer books volunteer money volunteer your time which is more valuable and you can imagine can call 18775984633. Or visit get smart or again. Dot org. Or again. Just tech smarts to 90999. And donate five bucks right now Terry then again thank you so much for her for joining us here on -- scope this is an absolutely fascinating and a brave you know godspeed. And. Just -- very much appreciate the the opportunity and thank you so much for your help support. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- And teachers teach in the holding room. American history and thank them. In the garden. Greg actually and find out. The ball. You won't be you know. Angola.