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DePauw Junior's Program Gets National Recognition

DePauw Junior's Program Gets National Recognition

October 2, 2001

October 2, 2001, Greencastle, Ind. -- Carrie Mark, a junior and Bonner Scholar at DePauw University, will attend the S.C.A.L.E. (Students Coalition for Site Activism in Literacy Education) conference at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, October 18, and tell the gathering about a volunteer program she developed that is enriching the lives of Putnam County school children. At left, Mark is seen showing DePauw University President Robert G. Bottoms a scrapbook of letters from her grateful students.

In the spring, Mark designed a program called STARS (Students Teaching Adolescents Reading), for middle school students who read at the third grade level or below. She says about 10% of local middle schoolers fit that description, reading is no longer taught as a skill after the third grade. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Falling Behind" 276KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Falling Behind" 235KB]"They really have very little chance of catching up in the school system, because once you've hit middle school it's all about acquiring knowledge, and if they can't keep up with the reading they're just out of luck," Mark says.

Mark (seen at right with Sarah Hershberger, assistant director of the Hartman Center for Civic Education and Leadership and assistant director of the Bonner Scholar program) says her program, which is more a game than a reading exercise, is designed to be fun. It is coupled with a mentoring component which pairs college students with the middle schoolers, Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "Amazing Leaps" 430KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "Amazing Leaps" 336KB]“so that they have their buddy that they're working with and it's not embarrassing, and kids have made amazing leaps in grade levels." Mark says the initiative does more than improve the children's academic performance: gaining reading skills also improves the self image of youngsters and can reduce or eliminate behavioral problems they're having at school and at home that often are the result of the frustration of not being able to read.

Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "I Cried" 301KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "I Cried" 235KB]"I cried when one of them read for the first time. I tried to hide it, but yeah, it's really amazing," Mark reports. She says "I almost feel like they're my kids," and modestly states that, "I get more out of it than they do."

Carrie Mark, a sociology major who hails from Red Wing, Minnesota, is contemplating graduate school to continue her study of how middle school students can be taught to read. In the near term, Mark says she hopes her presentation at the conference this month can help attitudes. Too often, she says, educators feel that middle schoolers with reading problems have "missed out"; that it's too late to help them. She knows from first hand experience that adolescents can be turned around, and has seen with her eyes the good those changes can do. Video Link [DOWNLOAD VIDEO: "National Attention" 441KB] Audio Link[DOWNLOAD AUDIO: "National Attention" 344KB]"To receive attention for it is nice, but at the same time, I've gotta remain level headed... and I'm still going in and doing the nifty gritty, working with kids, and I don't want to forget about that."

"DePauw is very proud of Carrie," said Dr. Bottoms. "Her initiative and ingenuity, combined with compassion and a determination to help others, are making a mark on this community, and have the potential to enhance young lives across America," the president said. (Black and white photo by Marilyn E. Culler)