Alternative School Outreach Program
Since 2008, Metro Drug Coalition has partnered with Richard Yoakley Alternative Learning School, where more than 60 percent of the students have drug and alcohol offenses. The suspensions typically result from drug abuse offenses or behavior discord. Most students placed at the alternative school lack the basic skills necessary to succeed in a school or lawful work environment. For these reasons, MDC’s highest priority for programming at Richard Yoakley School is to increase social and self competency skills through reading so they do not continue a life of crime.
While illiteracy is a relatively non-publicized problem, it profoundly impacts our society. U.S. Department of Education statistics reveal that 60% of prison inmates are illiterate and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. Illiteracy contributes to low self-esteem, unemployment, poverty and crime. Nationally, $5 billion a year is spent on welfare and unemployment compensation due to illiteracy.
This program not only enhances reading and literacy skills, but also increases students’ feelings of self worth and self confidence. Volunteers from MDC’s Community Coalition volunteer for this program not only to help with literacy, but to mentor these at-risk students one-on-one on a weekly basis. The volunteers connect with the students and develop relationships they may not have been a part of otherwise. They work to enhance interpersonal skills, etiquette and other life lessons that some of these students would not have been taught in the traditional setting.
What is Accelerated Reader?
Accelerated Reader (AR) helps build excitement for reading, boosts reading skills and builds vocabulary. Providing this program has helped to increase a students reading level 1-2 grade levels. The students feel empowered that they are achieving their accelerated reading goals and begin to have a positive outlook on themselves.
RYS has had outstanding outcomes through the use of this program. The Accelerated Reader Program encourages reading among students at Richard Yoakley School by providing incentives for Accelerated Reader points earned. The utilization of the program, via points earned, increases significantly over the course of the school year. Points earned by students at the school have increased since first implementation of the program in spring 2008 by 177%. Students on average gained in their reading proficiency by 1.2 grade levels per semester.
MDC’s Community Coalition members give their time during Richard Yoakley’s social skills session. Volunteers go into classrooms to speak about a variety of topics, from how to write a resume to conflict resolution and stress management. Because of these volunteers, students are encouraged to think critically about much-needed topics and gain information that they would not have otherwise received.
How Can You Get Involved?
Special thanks to United Way of Greater Knoxville for providing the funding for this program!