Approximately 513 students received help from an RSVP volunteer during the 2018-19 school year.
Of the students who received help, 370 students were reported to be reading at benchmark by the end of the school year, said RSVP Director Dana Songster. The organization created the RSVP Literacy Program that has brought support to the North Platte Public Schools for children needing help with reading.
“Every year we have to write a grant through the Corporation for National and Community Service,” Songster said. “In that grant they have different areas that we’re supposed to be addressing, so education is what we choose to focus most of our time and energy on.”
RSVP created the Literacy Program about 2007, Songster said, and it has evolved into what the program is today.
“This year we have to recruit 47 volunteers to work in the Literacy Program,” Songster said. “They all have to be 55 years of age or older, and they will serve at the nine elementary schools throughout the North Platte Public Schools District.”
If someone is interested in becoming a literacy volunteer, Songster said, they basically have to sign an RSVP enrollment form and have a background check conducted through North Platte Public Schools.
“The teachers send us a schedule of all the dates and times they are requesting, and we let the volunteers look through those and they pick a school that might be close to their home or close to their heart,” Songster said. “Some schools ask for 30 minutes, some are longer.”
Songster said volunteers don’t need to have a teaching background but know how to read and have patience with children.
The volunteers served a total of 1,781 hours at the nine North Platte Public elementary schools. Another program the organization participates in is distribution of new books.
“In April and May 2019, RSVP distributed two brand new books, a pencil and bookmark to every student in the North Platte Public School District, St. Patrick’s Catholic Schools, Our Redeemer Lutheran School and three Head Start programs,” Songster said.
She said 4,668 books were given to 2,334 students.
“This is the 11th year we have given out books,” Songster said. “As of this year, we have given over 55,000 books.”
Songster said two programs are under RSVP’s umbrella.
“We have the Ready to Serve Volunteer Program, which is all ages, and we have about 635 volunteers that help at approximately 135 nonprofits in North Platte,” Songster said. “Then we have the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, which is the federally funded program.”
In the Retired and Senior Volunteer program, there are 83 volunteers who are 55 years of age or older.
“The main things with the federally funded grant program is they are helping with the Literacy Program, helping at the food pantries, driving veterans to appointments, helping collect unused prescription drugs,” Songster said.