By Jenna Song, Contributing Editor
Early education plays a large role in what a student’s future education looks like. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) also known as the Nation’s Report Card conducts assessments every two years among fourth and eighth grade students across the nation. On average, Philadelphia fourth-grade students scored 15 points lower in reading than other public school students in large cities in 2019.
Low literacy has been an issue in Philadelphia and the organization, Mighty Writers, is aware of this problem. They’re actively expanding to reach more kids and they currently have 7 locations around Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They’re serving North, South, and West Philly along with 9th Street Market. They also have a location in Kennett Square. In New Jersey, there’s a Camden location as well as their new locations, Atlantic City and Newark.
“We recognize the need for a community literacy program in Philadelphia,” said Rachel Loeper, the Education Director of Mighty Writers.
They didn’t initially expect a lot of interest in their program but since they opened in 2009, they immediately had about 30 to 60 kids showing interest in their after-school programs.
Philadelphia desperately needs after-school programs, and free after-school programs that are decent are very difficult to come across. Working families really need this resource, explained Loeper.
Mighty Writers offers a variety of workshops and mentorship programs. Their volunteers play a large role in building trust with kids and the community.
“The most important thing you can do for a kid is listen to them,” said Brooke Randel, a Mighty Writers volunteer.
Randel first discovered Mighty Writers in 2014, after stopping for a few years she came back to be a mentor in 2020. She’s a professional copywriter who has benefitted from great teachers who have challenged her to be a better writer and she wants to do the same for the younger generation.
Since the pandemic, their programs have developed and despite kids physically returning to their schools, covid protocols are still in place, so kids have to adjust to learning in-person again.
Some of the volunteers noticed that the kids had to relearn social skills; ” As we return to in-person programs, we’re thinking about how we can create a safe zone for kids to learn and write with one another and rebuild a sense of community,” said Loeper.
Their food distribution program has also grown since the pandemic. They have been supplying after-school lunches to kids and their families which started when everything shut down in March 2020. Over time, they were able to connect with other food distributors to accommodate more people and even give out essential items such as diapers.
At the moment, they aren’t accepting any food donations, but they’re in need of new or lightly used books. They’re specifically looking for children’s picture books which can be dropped off at 1501 Christian Street on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Mighty Writers needs more support; they’re actively accepting mentors who can work with kids. They provide resources, tools, and coaching for mentors to have successful experiences with their assigned students.
The kids and the volunteers live all over Philadelphia. Their mentors get to work with kids from grades 2 to 12. They’re currently in need of someone who can work in an after-school program from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday.
If teaching isn’t your strong suit, they’re also looking for volunteers in food distribution as well, especially from Monday to Friday, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
You can sign up to be a volunteer on their website, this involves completing an application form.
It can be overwhelming to fit volunteering into your busy schedule, but Mighty Writers has an option to mentor kids remotely.
Randal has advised people interested in volunteering to find a balance between volunteering and other things. She has emphasized that they could always use more help because they require a lot of volunteers to run their programs.
If you’re a parent looking to learn more about their programs, you can look through their website and complete a form on their page to enroll.
If you have any other inquiries, they can be reached through their email firstname.lastname@example.org.