AmeriCorps Polk Reads is a reading tutoring program for struggling kindergarten – third grade readers at select schools in Polk County. Our sites for the 2022-2023 school year are Willow Oak Elementary, N. Lakeland Elementary, Lake Shipp Elementary, Padgett Elementary, Spook Hill Elementary, Kathleen Elementary, Dundee Elementary, Medulla Elementary, Eastside Elementary and Crystal Lake Elementary.

Our members provide (3) 30-minute, one-on-one tutoring sessions per week to over 460 students who are behind in reading. These sessions target the five components of effective reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary development, reading fluency and reading comprehension strategies) and work to move students up in their reading levels.

AmeriCorps Polk Reads is made possible through a partnership between the Polk Education Foundation, Polk County Public Schools, and Volunteer Florida, Inc., as well as local support from George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation, GiveWell Community Foundation, and proceeds from the PEF’s Stepping Out for Education event, and other donors.

Impact Polk grant recipient from George W. Jenkins Fund within GiveWell Community Foundation Logo

Program Awards

Volunteer Florida recognized AmeriCorps Polk Reads with its highest award of Program of the Year for the 2018-2019 program year.  Pictured below is Program Director Steve Chapman receiving the award from Volunteer Florida CEO Clay Ingram.

  • 92.1% Member Retention Award in 2018
  • 92.1% Member Retention Award in 2019
Volunteer Florida giving award to AmeriCorps Polk Reads program direct Steve Chapman

AmeriCorps Polk Reads Testimonials

“I would like to let you know how valuable the AmeriCorps program is to my students. I have witnessed such impressive growth and strengthening of skills along with the important confidence gained from the kids who can participate. First graders need a solid foundation of reading basics and for the love of reading. These set them up for future success both personally and academically. The AmeriCorps team combines the work of learning to read with joy. My students look forward to these lessons and their grades are a positive reflection of this well executed program.” Thank you so much for providing my students with this amazing opportunity, Kelly Charland, 1st grade teacher N. Lakeland Elementary

“WE love our volunteers from AmeriCorps Polk Reads this year. As a teacher of 20, with 7 in MTSS (remedial small groups); I need all the help I can get with one-on-one tutoring for our students. Our volunteers show up on time; with a smile on their faces; with explanations of how they grade reading levels. Additionally, they show us their work notes and the student progress so we can “team” tag on the students, who are fortunate to get them.  They really make a difference to the student, who feels special and singled out (and gets rewards for their work) and are a treasure.”  L Hanley, First Grade Teacher Dundee Elementary Academy

Our Americorps team is amazing! I can see the love they have for working with our students, and assisting them with Reading. Each time I see them around campus, they are smiling and communicating with staff and students along the way. Our front office staff has even mentioned how friendly and welcoming the team is. We are fortunate to have such a great and positive team at Padgett Elementary! ~Mrs. Griffin, Site Supervisor

 “The AmeriCorps tutors have been amazing to work with this year. They have been willing to listen to my concerns and step in to help when they can. My students LOVE going to tutoring. I have seen amazing growth both in skills and confidence with my students. We are so fortunate to have such wonderful people to work with our students!” ~ Ms. Barrow, 2nd grade teacher at Stephen’s Elementary

“Due to the pandemic, this school year has brought many challenges to teachers that they have never experienced before.  One of the biggest hurdles has been finding ways to engage students and provide them with proper time with a teacher when they are learning virtually.  Virtual teachers cannot walk around their classroom and provide on the spot guidance to their students.  Instead, they have had to find ways to rotate helping students that isn’t a distraction to the others. This can be especially challenging with little learners who are also easily distracted by their home environments.  Bringing Americorps into our virtual classrooms was a game changer.  Students who were not getting as much individualized teacher time as they needed now had that service.  Juliann was always there for our students and willing to meet with them in breakout rooms to read and discuss passages.  The students who worked with Juliann made gains they would not have made without her.  Juliann sent weekly progress reports for each student which helped teachers to stay connected and know what to give the students next.  Having the opportunity to offer Americorps virtually made an impact in the learning of our students!”Dr. Ashlee Lamb, Site-Supervisor Kingsford Elementary

“AmeriCorps is a wonderful program that has served the needs of our students in learning the foundations for reading.  We have noticed communication and collaboration among our teachers to best support student academic needs. The volunteers work together to build relationships with their students to provide learning experiences that incorporate hands-on activities, using text for application of phonemic skills, and utilizing fun learning games to build confidence in our students as readers. The classroom environment is very welcoming and provides a safe environment for our students to take learning risks and to feel connected with our members. We greatly appreciate our AmeriCorps volunteers as they have helped to shape our students into readers!”  – Sophia Clark, Literacy Coach, Alta Vista Elementary

“The Americorps program is wonderful. I have seen such a difference in my students. Some of the students that are in the program, came into the program not knowing any letters and sounds. Most of my students in the program are now reading by themselves or are closer to grade level than they were when they first started the year. I hope this program continues, because the students love it and the one-on-one they get gives them that extra help that they cannot always get or understand in class.”  – Amanda Santiago, Kindergarten Teacher, Alta Vista Elementary

Hello!  I just wanted to share with you how much the Americorps staff is contributing to advancing our students.  Ms. Wheeler and Ms. Robinson have been an incredible factor in the assessment results.  The Americorps students have shown remarkable growth, while also enjoying themselves!  My students love their Americorps time.  It has definitely been a year when this individualized attention and instruction has very positive results.  I do hope that this program will continue to serve our students!  Thank you, – Mrs. Woodington, Teacher at Crystal Lake Elementary

Member Spotlight

Haleigh Donahue

“Serving with the AmeriCorps Polk Reads program has been such an enriching and rewarding experience. I truly look forward to working with my students each day. Seeing their motivation to become stronger readers and the progress that they make daily is very heartwarming. As a recent college graduate looking to further my education, the Segal Education Award granted through this program will help me to financially achieve this goal.” – AmeriCorps Member Haleigh Donahue

Haleigh Donahue Reading To 3rd Graders During Training (3)

AmeriCorps Members Tutoring their Students

AmeriCorps Member Christina Working With Student
Jennifer Working With 3rd Grade Student
Carol Working With HFW
Leatha With Student
Britney With Student
Maggie Working With 2nd Grader

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Contact Information

Steve Chapman
AmeriCorps Polk Reads, Program Director

Office fax number: 863-519-8757