Member Spotlight: Transforming lives through Reading
Super Stars Literacy provides extended learning time intervention services to under-performing K-2nd grade students, helping them develop the literacy and social skills that are the foundation for future learning.
Originally developed as a project of the Junior League of Oakland-East Bay, the Super Stars Literacy program was launched at a single Oakland school in 2002 and became an independent non-profit in 2008. Today, we provide targeted literacy intervention to approximately 500 K-2nd graders at six high-need schools in Oakland.
We asked Super Stars Literacy Executive Director, Dr. Hollis, a few questions about how they keep their organization running and some of their favorite stories from staff and volunteers. To learn more about their individual and one-on-one mode and the work that “warms your heart” keep reading.
What is Super Stars Literacy’s hidden talent?
I think our hidden talent is two-fold. We’re really lucky to partner with AmeriCorps because from the start we have members who are dedicated to a year of service in this community. We have people who are dedicated to generating positive change, it’s a great starting point. From that we’re able to tap into their excitement about doing a year of service. I would say we have one of the most robust training programs for our group leaders. We do a really intensive orientation, followed up by bi-weekly trainings that eventually lead up to weekly trainings throughout the entire year. Last year of our co-hort, as a result of this robust training, we had about 30% of our members continue in the field of education most of them in the teaching capacity. We use trainings to really inspire people who might be on the fence about teaching to push them and realize that they love education and can be successful in this field.
How many Americorps members do you have in a year?
It varies and depends on the number of schools we’re working with that year. We have 6-7 school sites and each school has about four members. K, 1, and 2.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
I would say from an engagement standpoint one thing I’m really looking forward to is thinking about ways to authentically engage our families. We have three family engagement nights throughout the year and I think we did a great job. I’m really excited about engaging our members who see these families every day to think through what’s going to be the highest leverage for them and how can we engage them so that they want to be here, and feel a part of who we are. I’m really excited to dive deeper into that. It’s great that these families have taken the plunge and let us work with their children for three hours after school but I want it to go even further. I want parents to go home and understand what we do at SuperStars and feel comfortable enough to do it themselves.
From a training standpoint you have these amazing human beings that are in front of students every day and thinking through our training and making it even more targeted than it already is. The OLC Core training was super dope and how we can give them more resources so they can push themselves even further. And how is that going to manifest itself with their students. SO being really targeted with strategy.
Where are you moving from?
I was working in Southern California doing Education Lobbying for a year and before that I was a teacher in the East Coast.
Within the last year of you being here do you have a specific moment that has stuck with you while doing this work?
One of the schools I oversee, has about a 90 percent of Spanish-Speaking population and a subset of Mam speakers which was very new to me. Coming from the East Coast most of my students were Spanish Speaking. So there was a student we had last year, he’s actually in our program for the third year. He’s in Second grade now. His after school teacher, Mrs. Doe, creates a time and space to have Guest Library, and it’s a chance for students to sit in front of each other and read a book. The first year that this kiddo was in the program he wouldn’t speak and he would hide under the table, he was brand new to school and non-verbal. To see him a full year after in the program to sit in front of the whole class and to read Pete the Cat to the entire class in English when before he spoke no English. To do this in full confidence in front of his peers was a tear jerking moment. And to know that this happened because his after-school teacher had created a safe space were students feel comfortable, confident and excited to get up and read to each other is so amazing.
Why does Super Stars Literacy support literacy and early education in Oakland?
Super Stars is focused on eliminating the kinder readiness gap experienced by students that are most impacted by socio-economic inequity than their most traditionally successful peers by significantly increasing access to the skills that lead to self-confidence for a successful introduction into the reading experience.
Why do you think your organization joined the OLC?
To collaborate with like minded organizations to focus on the promotion of literacy achievement, to focus on bringing students to grade level proficiency and advance the skills and strategies of teachers. We are also interested with the donor community in efforts to build organizational wide resources to support our individual and collective efforts in Oakland.
In three words how would you describe Super Stars Literacy?
Partnership. AmeriCorps. Hard-working.