For Hartland High School senior Allison Gohl, volunteering as a Big Sister with the Rockin’ Readers program at Lakes Elementary School for the second year in a row was an easy decision.
“My kid last year was so adorable,” 17-year-old Allison said. “She made my day a lot better usually. It was the best 45 minutes of my day.”
The Rockin’ Readers program is run by the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Livingston County and is designed for kids who need extra support with reading. It takes place during the school day at Lakes and uses high school students as mentors.
“They’re such good role models for the kids,” Lakes principal Lindsey Smither said. “These high school kids are phenomenal.”
It’s a program that almost never was, however, according to Shari Davis-Schoech, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, who says that funding for the literacy program has been donated two years in a row from an anonymous donor.
And thanks to a $2,500 donation, 19 volunteers will travel once a week to Lakes and spend 30 to 45 minutes reading with their buddy before the elementary school day ends.
Although they will be receiving volunteer credit hours through Big Brothers Big Sisters, for many of the student volunteers, teaching, helping and working with the younger kids is an important part of their day.
“Reading is the foundation for a lot of education, so without reading, where would they be?” Hartland junior and second year volunteer Beth DeRosier said. “If they’re falling behind, it’s good to catch it early.”
Helping to change a child’s life and developing a relationship with her is part of the reason Rhi Sehl said she chose to volunteer again. It's a program the Hartland junior also says she hopes to see grow and benefit other local schools.
“I think kids look up to high schoolers," Rhi said. "It’s a closer age gap or they have siblings that in high school so it's just like having their sibling come and help them."
Having the extra support is the most important aspect of the program, Davis-Schoech said.
“They’re so much data out there that lets us know that the great leveling field for kids is education,” she said. “We all know that this does not fix anything in a vacuum. It’s the teachers working hard, it’s Lindsay (Smither) working hard, but this is just one more cool thing to bring to the kids. And they love their Bigs.”