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eNewsletter - Issue 26 - January 2015

A Message From Luis

I am grateful for your support and interest about what we are doing at Reading and Beyond. As we start a new year, we would love to hear back from you about any questions, suggestions and ideas you might have about how we can continue empowering children and families to achieve productive, self-reliant lives.

Perhaps you have heard people in our community say we shouldn’t focus on getting every child to college because not every student is “college material.” However, I have noticed that the ones who are saying that have college degrees and push their own children toward college. It raises the question: Whose children shouldn’t go to college?

Here at Reading and Beyond, we believe education is the way out of poverty and the tool to be successful in life. This is why a couple years ago we began providing GED (General Educational Development) tutoring for adults who didn’t finish high school. Working with children of low-income and uneducated parents, we have seen firsthand how the parents’ lack of education can affect their children’s quality of life.

I hope this E-newsletter issue will give you better idea who we are helping with GED, and how it is done.

Let us know your thoughts.



Pathways to Success’ First Graduate

Alice Fabel of Fresno had purchased a text book on Amazon. She had a couple of friends tutoring her in math. She was working hard to complete her General Educational Development (GED) requirements, but she wasn’t there yet. Then, her job specialist with Fresno County recommended her to Reading and Beyond’s (RAB) Pathways to Success Program, and she began working with Pam Ripley, an Education Navigator with the program.

“Pam at Reading and Beyond taught me the majority of algebra that I needed,” said Fabel, a 27-year-old single mom. “I liked how comprehensive (the class) was. Pam made sure we understood it.”

She also enjoyed the small class size, which was typically about 3-4 students. “It was really small and easy to work with,” she said.

In early January, Fabel took her last test of the four required subject areas – Mathematical Reasoning. “I was kind of nervous because it was hard to find info online on what the test would have,” she said.

When Fabel passed the exam, she became the first student from the Pathways to Success program to graduate. The program began in October, and currently has more than 70 students enrolled.
Fabel called her Education Navigator with the good news, and Ripley was overjoyed. “My heart was on wings!” Ripley said.

Fabel is now attending Fresno City College and plans to major in social work. She encourages others to get their GEDs and to not give up.

“Keep pursing it,” she said. “It’s not as scary as it seems.”

Barnes & Noble Book Drive

Reading and Beyond (RAB) received 6,880 new books and a handful of DVDs from a Barnes & Noble book drive during the holiday season.

 “I gave some away at my program at Balderas,” said Rachael Scott-Abude, RAB’s Literacy & Testing Coordinator. “One child asked, ‘When do I have to return these?’ I said, ‘No sweetheart, these are for you to keep.’”

This was the first year RAB was the recipient of Barnes & Noble’s book drive, which invited customers to buy a book to donate or give a monetary donation to purchase a book while they were paying for their own purchases.

Children at all of RAB’s literacy sites picked out two new books before Christmas. Among the books they could select from were chapter books, young adults and picture books.

While RAB has received and handed out gently-used, donated books before, “this is the first time we gave out books that were all brand new, so that was really exciting,” Scott-Abude said.

First Annual Holiday Party

Reading and Beyond (RAB) ended the year by holding its First Annual Holiday Party to honor staff and volunteers on Dec. 18. At least 150 people joined the inaugural event, which included decorations made by students in RAB’s preschool, raffle prizes donated by program managers, and performances by Tseem Tub Ntxhais Hmoob, a Hmong dance troupe.

In 2014, RAB had a total of 148 volunteers, who served a total of almost 25,000 hours. RAB also had 130 employees at the end of the year.

Without the dedication of staff and volunteers, RAB could not continue its various programs to help children and families with preschool, literacy intervention, career and work development, family strengthening and advocacy.
A total of $1,250 was donated just for the party from Jenny Brietigam, Jonathan Cook, Kaplan College, San Lorenzo Home Health,  Central Valley Networks, Amanda Schengel of Live Scan Fresno, Skyler and Angie Cleveland, Jacob Woolf, and Destination Wealth Management.

Work-study Volunteers’ Vital Roles

No matter which literacy site you look at, you’ll likely find at least one work-study student helping children as part of the Reading and Beyond (RAB) at Fresno State University (FSU) program.

“They are very important,” said Francisco Moralez, the community site coordinator at the Mosqueda Community Center, of the work-study students. “I wouldn’t be able to manage Mosqueda’s after-school program without them.”

In December, RAB had 47 work-study students who worked a total of 1,611 hours.

Pre-nursing student Digiovanni Gutierrez began working as a literacy tutor last semester. His favorite activity with the students is free play, when he can interact with them by playing sports and other activities.

Growing up in Porterville, the junior at FSU remembers attending a similar, after-school-type program when he was younger. “I still keep in touch with my tutor,” Gutierrez said. “He’s a personal trainer now. He just had a positive influence in my life.”

For Miriam Perez, being a RAB volunteer has been a tremendous educational experience. “I’ve learned so many things,” said Perez, a broadcast journalism senior. “I knew before it was important to read to a kid, but until I worked here, I didn’t realize just how important it was.”

She also has discovered a few things about herself. “I was patient before with kids, but this job has helped me to be more patient. I learned each kid learns differently, and you have to be patient.”

Perez has seen her communication skills improve. “I’ve had to talk to parents,” she said. “I’ve had to translate. I feel more confident talking in public.”

But one thing she enjoys most is the impact her tutoring can have. “I like it when I’m explaining something to the kids and it clicks in their eyes. When they get it, it’s really rewarding to see that your work is worth it, and it’s making a difference.”

Preschool’s Annual Winter Concert

On Friday, Dec. 19, the Reading and Beyond Preschool at the Mosqueda Community Center had its annual Winter Concert/Family Potluck, which included 36 preschool children performing and about 150 family members and friends in attendance. With girls in dresses and boys in slacks and sweaters and collared shirts, the children sang their hearts out to tunes from the Disney movie “Frozen.” The 4-year-olds delighted audience members with “Let It Go,” while 3 year olds belted out “Do You Want Build a Snowman?” Both age groups also sang “Feliz Navidad” and “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Following the performance, students and their families and friends enjoyed dinner. Afterward, they engaged in fun family activities, which included making hot chocolate with mixable flavors, building an edible snowman, pinning the nose on “Olaf” the snowman, and taking pictures in front of a winter-themed background and using a large photo frame and winter props.

In an effort to promote early literacy at home, each child received three books upon departure from the event – an alphabet book, a math book, and a science book.

“A special thanks to the children, parents, and teaching staff for all their hard work in making the winter concert a success,” said Barbara Wons-Daniel, the preschool director.

Staff/Volunteer Spotlight

Pam Ripley joined Reading and Beyond (RAB) as an Educational Navigator with the Pathways to Success Program in September 2014. The program had just been launched, and there were many opportunities for innovative lessons. The purpose of Pathways is to prepare adult students for the General Education Development (GED) certificate.

Ms. Ripley graduated from California State University, Fresno with a degree in Sociology.  She then completed an education degree, teaching grades first through adults since 1989.  Her most recent teaching position was in the Tulare County’s Parole office.

“The eight years I spent teaching parolees was interesting and personally fulfilling,” she said. “I was able to see through the lens of an educator, learning about the struggles my students faced, both academically and socially. I had the ability to make an impact on people’s lives, even the ones who went back to prison.”

In early January, Pam guided one of her students through all sections of the GED. This student was the first to earn her certificate through the fledgling Pathways to Success Program. Four other students are slated to take sections in the next several weeks.

Ripley is enjoying her new adventure at RAB. “Reading and Beyond’s program is a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I enjoy the creativity and autonomy afforded by being a part of an exciting educational venture.

“RAB allows me to get to know students and their personal histories. Due to the small class sizes, I am able to individualize curriculum. My students are delightful. They are in school because they see the value of education and its impact on their future, as well as that of their loved ones. Many days I believe I learn more from students than they do from me. I am honored to be their teacher.”

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Reading and Beyond
4670 E. Butler Avenue
Fresno, CA 93702
559/600-6191 Ph.
559/600-7639 Fax

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