Polly Page and Jeff Smith Share ‘One on One’

by Pat Moynahan on August 11, 2015

Polly Page of NKEC.

Polly Page of NKEC.

FLORENCE – When he retired from his dental practice, Jeff Smith did not envision reading to third graders every week. Golf was more like what he had in mind.

He was subbing on occasion in Boone County schools when he decided to try out One on One, a program in which volunteers work with students in grades 1-3 on their reading skills.

“I was just looking for something to do when golf season ended,” Smith said. “I enjoyed it so much I quit subbing after the first year because this (One on One) is what I most like to do.”

Smith shared his One on One experiences at a meeting of the Florence Rotary Club on Monday, Aug. 3, in conjunction with a presentation by the Northern Kentucky Education Council (NKEC). The council is comprised of business, community and education leaders who coordinate education innovations in the region.

“We are the backbone organization for alignment of education initiatives,” said Polly Page, executive director of NKEC. “We focus on the whole education pipeline, from early childhood on.”

One on One is one of the several collaborative programs sponsored by the council, including:

Read On! – a multi-dimensional program that focuses on improving third grade reading success kindergarten readiness, attendance, summer learning and literacy intervention.

NaviGo Scholars – a coaching and mentoring program for high school students.

Enhanced Gallup Student Poll – a program that tracks student progress around a composite hope, engagement and well-being score called “Ready for the Future.”

Volunteers in the One on One program undergo six hours of training to become literacy coaches. Working with a training consultant, each coach selects books to read and prepares weekly coaching plans. The coach meets with the child 35 minutes each week.

“Sometimes I read to the child and sometimes the child reads to me,” Smith noted. “Sometimes we read opposite pages and sometimes we each read a character like we’re in a play.”

One to One currently reaches more than 400 children in 42 elementary schools, according to Page. Data show that 88 percent of the students coached have made continuous progress in reading achievement.

“I get as much out of it as the kids do,” Smith said. “The best part of it is getting to know about the kids and watching them learn. Some are real shy and just need someone to talk to. All of them need someone who’s a friend.”

Someone who’s … well, like a golfing buddy.