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Energizing Education, a Jackson County program to help elementary school students read at or above grade level, looks to build on its success through a grant from Dawn Foods Foundation.

                “Our foundation has always believed that education is important. We also know that reading skills are fundamental to furthering one’s education. We appreciate that Energizing Education works to strengthen literacy at such a young age so children can truly enjoy learning,” said Sarah Richmond, president of Dawn Foods Foundation.

                “We’re deeply grateful to Dawn Foods Foundation for its generous support, which will help strengthen our programming and our efforts to make sure every child in Jackson County reads proficiently,” Energizing Education Manager Kriss Giannetti said.

                Added Ken Toll, president and CEO of United Way of Jackson County, “Education is a key strategy in ensuring financial stability in life, and reading is essential to that strategy. We thank Dawn Foods Foundation for making this investment in our kids and our future.”

                At the request of the foundation, the amount of the grant was not announced.

Energizing Education (EE) targets low-achieving students in grades K-2nd with a two-pronged approach to improve literacy: volunteer mentors, coached by a literacy specialist, working one-on-one with students in reading, writing and vocabulary during half-hour sessions twice a week; and family engagement  activities that encourage families to take a more active role in their children’s education, providing skills and materials to nurture reading at home. Currently, EE operates in six Jackson County elementary schools—Frost, Bennett and Northeast (Jackson Public Schools); Arnold (Michigan Center); Parnall (Northwest); George Long (Grass Lake).

According to Giannetti, 99 percent of the 142 students who participated in EE in 2014-15 improved their reading ability at least one level, with the average improvement reaching a significant 6.82 reading levels. Some 154 volunteer mentors were involved, and 35 family events during the year brought in more than 8,800 participants. Giannetti said EE’s primary goal is to roll out the initiative to all schools in Jackson County that want the program, with special emphasis on schools that need it most, by 2022-23.

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