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Executive Director’s Note- January 2016

First of all, happy New Year to everyone! I come back after a long break with a renewed spirit to ratchet up for the next level of effort that will tell the tale of whether or not the San Antonio community is willing and able to meet the needs of our 2nd grade students. I ask myself this question on a daily basis: How important is it to this community that we have literate children? This year we hope to tutor 1,481 students, but there are still almost 5,800 kids that fail the 3rd grade literacy test every year in Bexar County.

 There are so many efforts going on within the San Antonio community to ensure we are a city on the rise. I applaud these efforts because I have always believed it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure we have a strong, vibrant community. I have been impressed by such efforts as the STEM program. However, I constantly find myself thinking, that while the STEM program is great, if the kids can’t read then they can’t solve the math or science problem. They have to be able to read for any hope of future success!

I have been asked by several people when discussing the need for SAYL,“Aren’t the schools doing this?” The answer is: no, but not from lack of trying. The answer is no not because they are not willing and doing their best to ensure we have literate children but because they are overwhelmed with a daunting challenge. That challenge is poverty. 76% of the elementary schools (195 of 257) in Bexar County are Title I schools. A Title I school is a federal designation that indicates a high percentage of low income families. Poverty presents challenges to their success. A powerful book outlining the affects of poverty is “Teaching with Poverty in Mind”by Eric Jensen. This book outlines the social, cognitive, health-related and stress-related challenges of economically disadvantaged kids. The important thing we need to recognize is that there are proven strategies that we can replicate. One of those is exactly what SAYL is doing. One-on-one tutoring and mentoring helps to improve self-esteem which enables children to succeed academically. One study indicated self-esteem and school engagement were among the most important factors keeping kids in school. So I ask again, will we, as a community, embrace this challenge and engage the resources necessary to give our kids the chance they deserve to be successful? It is imperative if we truly want to be a city on the rise.

In partnership, Maryann Acola

Mary Flannigan