SANTA FE, N.M. — Stop for a minute and think. If you couldn’t read, what kind of life would you have?
What would you be, who would you be married to, what interests would you have? What career do you think you could pursue with expectations of a “good life” if you were unable to read? Tinker, tailor, soldier, spy?
Butcher, baker, candlestick maker? ALL of them read. (Oh, there is professional athlete.)
Otherwise, one’s prospects for “success” are pretty bleak without some minimal life skills, primarily reading. My whole class learned to read in the first grade. Everybody did. First the letters and the sounds they made, then putting them together. Fun with Dick and Jane. See Spot run. It wasn’t hard. Phonics was fun – it made sense.
In second grade we learned diphthongs and I got knocked out of the spelling bee on the word “been.”
By third grade we were reading in Spanish and French, too. Well, that was Catholic girl’s school in the 1950s. So by the 2015s we should all be brilliant! So, how is it that today 41 percent of high school seniors are being graduated without knowing how to read at grade level? How did they progress that far unnoticed?
All those wasted years. No “Scarlet Letter” or “Beowulf,” Western civilization, biology or geometry questions. If they could not read anything, what did they learn? So poorly educated, where will they go and what will they do? Not punch the buzzer on Jeopardy. More sadly, who will they BE?
Today here in Santa Fe, only 21 percent of third graders can read, so 79 percent can’t. Four out of five third graders cannot read and they soon grow into high school seniors.
Here comes MATCH, acronym for Mentoring and Tutoring Creates Hope. This reading program for third graders is modeled after the very successful one designed in Israel, which so far has taught over 60,000 children to read.
A college student is matched to a child, one-on-one, for reading instruction until the child ” gets it” and reading clicks in. A whole new world opens up for the child from that moment on, and a future.
So far in Santa Fe, St. Johns College students have brought MATCH New Mexico into the Ramirez Thomas Elementary School, with 13 pairs participating this year and hopes of expanding into other schools next year.
The first fundraiser for MATCH New Mexico was held at the Inn at Loretto with the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata entertaining the silent auction guests as they shopped. Two hundred folks came, many of whom are active participants in the training process, including the original founders from Israel. Interesting objets d’art, sporting and travel packages, and some custom jewelry helped to raise more than $20,000 for expanding the program.
Keynote speaker Sen. Tom Udall spoke sincerely and adamantly about the virtues, joys and basic necessity of reading, and praised MATCH New Mexico for their accomplishments.
Another child advocacy group, totally different focus! You thought not being able to read was dire, and it is. It is!
But what about the homeless children of the homeless? They are still supposed to go to school. They still grow up. They too need to learn everything. But this demographic of our culture faces an entirely different set of problems than children in stable homes. They don’t have “a room of their own” when they don’t have a roof over their head.
And without a kitchen and food, where is your next meal coming from? With subsistence problems like these on the minds of homeless children, it’s no wonder they need a hand with their schoolwork. With lives described as “turbulent and unstable”, these kids face obstacles and temptations unknown to Beaver and Wally.
Adelante offers professional tutoring to students, material aid, and advocacy in the schools and human service agencies. They provide school clothes and school supplies to over 1,300 homeless students every year, and over 100,000 pounds of food annually.
There are evening activities, field trips, sports and assistance with school projects. They offer good competition instead of joining the gangs.
Several former clients of Adelante spoke at the fundraiser held at La Fonda for 250 concerned supporters. Over a scrumptious Italian dinner, we heard poignant “there but for the grace of God go I” stories that leave one counting one’s blessings in life and decrying the misfortunes that have left others in such dire circumstances.
Young Blanca Ortiz told how she never expected her mother to be left alone with 3 children. She never expected her mother to become quite sick and unable to work, and get behind on the rent. She never expected to come home after school one day to find her house chained and padlocked, with a “No Trespassing” sign on it. She never expected to be homeless, with nowhere to go and no one to help.
A lovely young woman related that she was making dinner with her school-aged daughter when her husband went out for a minute to run an errand. Pounding on the door, the police came in with a warrant for his arrest on an old traffic charge.
When he walked back into the house, they handcuffed him and took him away. She does not know where he is, nor does he know that she had their second child, now 2. Their happy life was destroyed and they became homeless.
Adelante was there to pick up the unraveled strings of both these families’ lives, and many others. Some place to go. Food. A support system for them all, advice, advocacy and material possessions. They raised around $20,000 this evening, which will go toward continuing this grassroots work for families to alleviate the trauma to homeless children.
Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane Buschbaum greets MATCH New Mexico founder John Graham.
Ruth and Peter Merrill are aglow at the MATCH bash.
Deborah Bryant came out to La Fonda for Adelante.
Gloria and Tom Quaid at the Adelante fundraiser.