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Literacy Changes Everything

By Melanie Moffett
In Center Block
Apr 27th, 2015


Carmel Hill Fund Educational Program Forges Path for Children in Monroe

article by Maré Brennan  |  photography by Martin G Meyers

When Margie Godwin and Allison Painich go to work each day, they know they are changing lives for the better. “We are not waiting for Superman to come save these kids; we are doing it right now through programs like Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math,” smiles Godwin as she and Painich recount Carmel Hill’s triumphs since serendipity brought Godwin and the Carmel Hill Foundation, which is based in New York City, together. This amazingly productive Monroe branch of the foundation is celebrating ten years of effecting change at the most basic of areas and where it counts the most – the next generation of northeast Louisianians and their education.

By the numbers, Carmel Hill Foundation’s Educational Program assistance over the past ten years to Monroe City Schools is staggering. Since 2005, The Carmel Hill Fund Education Program has gifted over $50,000 in library books to each school in the Monroe City School system. In those past ten years, the Carmel Hill Fund Educational Program (CHFEP) has given Monroe City Schools over $2,000,000 in software and technology and almost $500,000 in valuable ULM intern assistance through a program that trains and pays for future teachers and librarians to be placed in schools with needs. In addition, schools are given cash to use as incentive rewards for students who meet their reading and math goals. CHFEP also partners with Catholic schools in Monroe to develop strong skills for a lifetime of learning.

Take a trip to any of the schools benefitting from Carmel Hill’s education enhancing programs like Accelerated Reader or Accelerated Math and you’ll see the outward pride of becoming a successful Renaissance Classroom. Congratulatory banners hang near classrooms where students have improved and achieved overall mastery of reading and/or math skills. Pride in the product of education is enhanced when Carmel Hill is involved and their contributions to technology in the classroom cannot be understated.

One might ask, “How did such a wonderful program like New York-based Carmel Hill find its way to Monroe, Louisiana?” Godwin, a former school librarian, was visiting friends out-of-town and was wondering what direction her life would take in the aftermath of a family tragedy when she made a happenstance yet life changing connection to William Ruane’s amazing non-profit foundation, the Carmel Hill Fund, whose mission was to  empower children through reading and lead them to a better life outcomes. A visit to the Carmel Hill Fund’s Harlem, New York offices solidified her zeal to continue her life’s work with reading and children and bring much needed, essential resources to the children of Monroe.

In the fall of 2007, The Carmel Hill Fund and the University of Louisiana at Monroe began a very successful partnership to provide hands-on experiences for education majors as well as the opportunity to discover the intricacies of each school setting and to enrich the educational road traveled by these young students who are recommended by their professors. Under the direction of Carmel Hill’s Allison Painich, the ULM Education Major Intern, with the guidance of the librarian and classroom teacher, helps with the implementation of the Accelerated Reader and Accelerated Math programs in the capacity needed at the individual school site. Interns also assist students with integrating and utilizing technology to further enhance the effectiveness of these programs. Currently, Carmel Hill has interns Nick Sanders and Nirali Patel placed at Sallie Humble Elementary.Often these coveted and valuable internships can lead to amazing employment opportunities. Former CHFEP intern, Jesse Flunder is doing his student teaching at Lee Junior High, while former intern Robin Liner is now the librarian at Clara Hall.

In addition to classroom support, Carmel Hill Foundation has sponsored student initiatives to attend artistic and educational performances presented by Twin City Ballet Company. As a reward for those who have made great achievements in Accelerated Reader during the school year, students were given the opportunity to attend the morning performance of this world-renowned dance company.

World Book Day is yet another celebration of reading that is supported by Carmel Hill Foundation in Monroe. World Book Day is the largest celebration of books and reading in the world. Every year on March 4, students around the globe and especially in Monroe, Louisiana are invited to participate in the Drop Everything And Read Day.

Currently, Carmel Hill Monroe partners with 23 schools – serving a total of approximately 9,100 students. For more information about their project, visit www.carmelhillmonroe.org.

We all need to give a collective “Thanks” to Godwin and Painich for the groundbreaking work they are doing to ensure the next generations of Monroe’s children have the best footing possible for achieving success in life.

A Brief History of Carmel Hill Fund and Its Founder:
Little Bill Ruane learned to love reading at the his grandmother’s knee in Chicago. When he grew up, Ruane created and managed the highly successful Sequoia Fund, one of the most consistently high performing investment funds on Wall Street. After achieving phenomenal business and personal success, he turned his attention to philanthropic work, which settled on working to right educational inequities in the United States. He was particularly passionate about the children that his programs impacted. Though Bill passed away in 2005, his vision still inspires the work of the Carmel Hill Foundation he founded. The Carmel Hill Foundation Education Program (CHFEP) is a nonprofit whose mission is to foster the love of reading in children by providing educators with the means to improve their students reading abilities. Reading is key to helping children achieve success beyond their circumstances, allowing children to express ideas, share experiences, and formulate a point of view. The primary focus of the CHFEP is Renaissance Learning’s Accelerated Reader “AR” and Accelerated Math programs.