Pictured is Bonnie Kantor and mentor, Grandma Joanne at the Leipsic Project MORE/RSVP event day.
Pictured is Bonnie Kantor and mentor, Grandma Joanne at the Leipsic Project MORE/RSVP event day.
LEIPSIC - Ohio Department of Aging Director Bonnie Kantor-Burman, Governor's Office of 21st Century Education Director Dick Ross, and project partners announced a new state-local initiative to connect two established Ohio programs, Project MORE (Mentoring in Ohio for Reading Excellence) and the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), to improve childhood literacy, support Ohio's Third Grade Reading Guarantee, engage elders to support community needs and teach kids the secrets of living long, healthy lives. The announcement came recently during an event at Leipsic Elementary School.

Project MORE is a volunteer reading mentoring project for students with disabilities or at risk for reading failure. In spring 2013, Ohio will implement a pilot initiative to link the evidence-based Project MORE curriculum with the proven effectiveness of RSVP volunteers in four Ohio RSVP programs to match volunteers with schools and classrooms interested in implementing or expanding Project MORE.

Leipsic Superintendent Greg Williamson said "we are ALL in this together." "We have had the mentoring program here for 14 years with a total of 1,050 students, and 1,734 mentors totaling 43,153 hours of mentoring. As of this past fall, 80 percent of our third graders passed the assessment test on the first try, and from fall to this spring, we had a 19 percent increase, and we attribute this to Project MORE."

"Project MORE is an evidence-based intervention that is effective, affordable, replicated and sustainable, and is producing results in 300 schools." said Amy Freeman, Project MORE Director. "Independent research conducted by BGSU's Center for Evaluation Services consistently reports students with specific learning disabilities or at risk for reading failure make month-for-month reading level gains when they are mentored in reading one-on-one, three to four times a week for 30 minutes each session."

"RSVP is America's largest volunteer network for people age 55 and older, and Ohio has 23 local RSVP programs that engage nearly 13,000 volunteers across the state in activities designed to meet critical community needs," said Tina Dunphy, Ohio State Program Director, Corporation for National and Community Service. "One of the best aspects of RSVP is that it's a 'win - win proposition'; RSVP volunteers don't just help others - they're also helping themselves and improving the quality of their own lives. Volunteering leads to new discoveries like learning new skills and meeting new people. Also, studies show that volunteering helps people live longer and promotes a positive outlook on life."

The Department of Aging, Project MORE and curriculum developers will collaborate on materials for teachers, mentors and students that offer a positive view of healthy aging by demonstrating how important health choices today will impact individuals for a lifetime. Governor John Kasich's 2013-14 biennium budget supports this initiative by encouraging RSVP programs to use Ohio GRF National Senior Services Corps Program Funds to support priorities established by the Ohio Department of Aging and the Corporation for National and Community Service, including school readiness, K-12 success, healthy futures and aging in place.

"Leipsic Elementary Principal Darren Henry commented, "This year we have 65 kids, kindergarten through the forth grade and 116 mentors. On average, our kids have half hour sessions four times a week."

A mentor, Grandma Joanne, stated she really enjoyed the program. "It's really my love for children that keeps me here. And it's really nice to know that our future is learning the way they are."

RSVP partner organizations participating in the pilot are: Corporation for Ohio Appalachian Development, Ohio District 5 Area Agency on Aging, Inc., Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio, Inc. and RSVP of Lake County. These pilot sites will serve as models for expanding Project MORE to other RSVP programs, schools and classrooms in the 2013-14 school year. For more information about RSVP, contact Tina Dunphy at 614-493-2755, or visit www.seniorcorps.gov/about/programs/rsvp.asp.

Project MORE was conceptualized in 1998 by Jan Osborn, Putnam County Schools Superintendent, in collaboration with Margaret Burley, Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities. As a founding supporter of Project MORE, Senator Randy Gardner has provided leadership to help all children in Ohio learn to read. For more information about Project MORE, Contact Amy Freeman at 888-319-3560, or visit www.ohioprojectmore.org.