As part of SMART’s 20th anniversary efforts in 2011-2012, we launched a story collection campaign to invite individuals – volunteers, educators, parents, former SMART students – to share about their experiences with SMART. We received a great response and gathered more than 100 fabulous stories about the many ways in which SMART is improving lives, big and small. Enjoy!

Story from:

Frank Brougher, Clatsop County

I was an American Baptist pastor for 45 years – on the liberal ecumenical, get involved in the community side of the church. I retired in 2008 to Seaside, and had two serious concerns: 1. reaction to the rain and winter weather, being raised in Southern California, and 2. what would I have to get up for? The answer was volunteering. I had preached it, I had taught to people about it and now it was my turn.

But, where? And if I volunteer, am I tied down from going on trips and visiting family? I learned of SMART and have volunteered for three years. It’s very meaningful helping children early in their lives. It’s an exciting thing for me that I look forward to every week.

Story from:

Rosi, Marion County

Reading has not come easy for my son. He works incredibly hard and is dedicated to doing his best in school. His struggles have been frustrating for him. He connected with SMART in grade school and the added one-on-one time was priceless. Having a partner to spend time with him reading and making it fun was a big help. Our family appreciates the good work that the SMART organization offers. With heartbreaking budget cuts and crowded classrooms, SMART is an invaluable addition to any public school.

Story from:

Dick Harr, Multnomah County

I retired in 2001 and began as a SMART Reader in 2002 at Shaver Elementary in the Parkrose School District. This is the school both of my children graduated from. So it was my way of giving back. I remained at Shaver until 2010 when they closed the SMART program. I then transferred to Prescott Elementary still in the Parkrose District. It happens to be the school where I started 1st grade. So now I guess I have come full circle.

Story from:

Marlene Gaidosh, Deschutes County

I have been involved with SMART since 2006. I have been a reader and a coordinator. I saw an ad in our local paper about the need for volunteers. I had just retired and moved to a new area. I was missing my grand kids and wanted to make some friends in my new community. I was so happy with how easy it was to get started! Being back in the school atmosphere and getting to know the kids has been a great experience. Watching the progress the kids make each year and seeing them grow keeps me coming back for more. It is such a small amount of time and the appreciation of the kids is huge. If you love kids and reading, I would urge you to give this program a try.

Story from:

Peggy Bernhard, Benton County

My first year as a reader, I was assigned a 1st grader who was full of “pickles.” We did reading, but we also did some work on ignoring others, staying seated, and not wasting time. I watched and saw that he was usually the one who got caught while the instigator was long gone. He reminded me of the “naughty” boys that I enjoyed working with as a teacher. There’s something special about them.
At the end of the year, another volunteer brought in chocolate Kisses for the students. He gave one to my reader and said that it was because he had done a good job. The student asked where the Kiss for me was as I had done a good job, too. “No, just for students,” was the reply. The student turned to me and gave me his candy and said, “You did a good job, too.”
Now you see why I like the “naughty” ones.

Story from:

Marge Wrightson, Lane County

There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a light in a child’s eyes, a light of understanding or accomplishment and you know that you have reached them.
Another great reward one year was at the end of the school year. There was a little reception for the kids and their parents and when one of my little young students I
had read to came up to me pulling his mom’s hand, and with a grin from ear to ear and introduced me to his mother. The sincere thanks that I received from his mom was a great reward.
All together, I have had this wonderful opportunity of reading with the kids for 10 plus years and I plan on doing this same thing for hopefully a few more years.

 

Story from:

Linda Brown, Tillamook County

Starting as a SMART Coordinator in 2005, I realized I had joined an amazing program for the love of reading. I loved to read and wanted to share that with students at my local elementary school. The volunteers I worked with were amazing! The teachers worked so hard to get as many students that needed that extra help into the program as they could. It was a very positive experience and I miss it so much. I now get to see those students all the time and can tell it impacted their lives in so many ways. WOW! 20 years!

Story from:

Allison Mudrick, Multnomah County

Several years ago, I read to a kindergarten student at Vernon Elementary School. Every Wednesday, as we selected which books we were going to share, he pulled “Cat in the Hat” off the shelf and that was the one we made sure to read together. On the last day of the year, Gina, our SMART coordinator, planned a lovely celebration for all of the children and their reading buddies. My reading buddy finished his punch and cookies and before heading back to class, ran over to the book shelf, picked up a book and with a big smile, “Could you read it to me one more time?” I think you can guess what book he selected. I shared that book with him every week for an entire year and he never got tired of listening to it.

Story from:

Ed Parigian, Multnomah County

I have so many great memories of reading with the kids, and one of my favorites has to be the time that I was working with a 1st grade boy, a macho manly boy, on a story that contained a lot of dialogue. It seemed a perfect story to make into a play, so we each adopted the characters… and I told him we had to play the roles in character, male and female, young and old. He looked at me, I looked back with a “yes, go ahead” look…we both laughed so hard that day. That’s why I love SMART…and that’s why SMART works.

Story from:

Joan Tingey, Lane County

When I retired in 1997 I decided I wanted to do some volunteering. As I thought about it I thought how important it is for kids to read well in order to succeed in school. I heard about the SMART program here in Cottage Grove and saw they needed volunteers badly. My children had gone to Harrison school so I signed up there and have been reading to the kids there or Bohemia school since then. I enjoy it very much, it’s great seeing the improvement from the beginnning of the year to the end of the year. The kids love to take books home. It’s a great program.