The Union Recorder

December 3, 2013

Reading role models

JMA student mentors aid young learners

Vaishali Patel
The Union-Recorder

MILLEDGEVILLE — John Milledge Academy ninth-grader Livi Edmonson is enjoying being a role model and mentor in an effort to help improve reading levels of third grade students this year through the Teen Trendsetters Reading Mentors program.

“It gives you a good feeling because you know that you’re helping the students. We’re helping them become an all-around better readers and learners,” she said while reading to third-grader Joon Sung Monday afternoon. “[This program] is beneficial because they’re learning and we’re learning how to mentor.”

The youth mentoring program is through the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy. JMA was also awarded grant funding for the Teen Trendsetters program in 2009 and 2010. 

“In the past, elementary students have raised their Accelerated Reading scores as much as 2.5 points throughout the year,” said Jessica Jones, JMA high school English teacher. “It was a phenomenal program. We’re very excited to have it back this year since it was really successful in the past. We’re looking forward to making similar strides this year and have fun watching my high schoolers getting excited about seeing their mentees each Monday.”

This year, 34 ninth grade honor students are serving as mentors to 42 third grade students. The program kicked off Thursday, Oct. 31.

“Of the 42 third-graders, 36 are reading below a 3.0 reading level, which is right at the third-grade level. That’s astounding for what our expectations are at JMA,” Jones said. “Our goal is to improve basic reading skills of the younger students and to nurture a volunteer spirit among youth leaders.”

Each week, the mentors and mentees convene for 40 minutes to complete a science-based reading curriculum designed by the Teen Trendsetters program and Scholastic Inc. Elementary participants receive magazines and books focused on science topics throughout the school year, or 16 meetings, to add to their at-home library. Many books are accompanied by comprehension worksheets.

“The third-graders look up to us and it encourages them to read because we’re their mentors who read too,” said Trevor Evans, who is paired with mentee Nathan Simpson. “Every Monday this is what I look forward to. It’s fun to spend time with them.”

The grant funds $220 per mentor and mentee match, provided through the curriculum.

“For students who are above the reading level, the school has been able to fund higher level books for them to read,” Jones said. “All of the mentors are required to attend training to learn how to have appropriate relationships with their mentees, and the qualities of being a good teacher and good role model.”

To date, Teen Trendsetters programs in Florida, Georgia and Tennessee have reached 13,200 elementary students and 14,300 teens, resulting in more than 200,000 volunteer hours since the program was first launched in 2002.

“I think this is a beneficial program. They learn to read well, which will definitely help them in their middle and high school career,” said Tashkir Toufiq, who mentors third-grade student Logan Roberts. “Since we’re a lot older than them, they look up to us.”

“I enjoy reading to them because they enjoy learning new things and they all work hard,” Edmonson added. “We get to see them every week, get to know them and see them improve each week.”

For more information about the Barbara Bush Foundation and the Teen Trendsetters program, visit

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