Two Carlthorp School Alumni Fellows Make an Impact with Save the Children

From October 16-19, two alumni fellows Lily S. and Michael L. (Carlthorp class of 2014) volunteered alongside Tim Kusserow, Head of School, to assist with the Head Start Programs and School-Age Literacy Programs in St. Francis and Woodruff Counties, Arkansas and Bolivar County, Mississippi.
The group volunteered in Head Start programs, ARCare Centers for Education and Wellness, elementary schools, and participated in home visits in an effort to assist with the literacy program and to learn more about the impact of Save the Children.
After just one day in Bolivar County, Mississippi, Lily reflected, “Every child deserves a quality education no matter the circumstance.” Michael added, “I had no idea how challenging it is to teach a child how to read.  Starting at an early age is critical.”

The group spent their days assisting teachers with literacy lessons and engaging with the children in the classrooms.  They also visited a few families in their homes. After spending time within the classrooms, where resources are scarce, Michael noted, “The schools that we visited acted as case studies of the opportunities born from an educator’s passion, a student’s enthusiasm, and a community’s love.”

About the Trip:
Boliviar County encompasses Mound Bayou, Shelby, and Duncan, Mississippi. According to Save the Children, Mound Bayou and the nearby Mississippi towns of Shelby and Duncan are among the most difficult places in the United States for a child to grow up healthy and prepared for success in college and the workforce. The state has deep pockets of poverty and a widening disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  

Families in Mound Bayou have low rates of income, employment, and educational attainment. More than half of the children live in poverty and over 30% of adults have not completed high school. 73% of all fourth graders in the state are not reading at grade level and are more likely to leave school without a diploma than proficient readers.  
Woodruff County, Arkansas has a median household income of approximately $30,383 with 27% of the population under the poverty line.  Roughly 25% of the citizens do not have high school diplomas. St. Francis, Arkansas has a median household income of $35,000 with about 32% of the population under the poverty line. Roughly 22% of citizens do not have a high school diploma.  

The Impact of the Program:
Children enrolled in the early childhood and school-age programs develop the skills needed to overcome the obstacles before them, and to live healthy, productive and successful lives. In fact, during the 2017-18 school year, 89% of 3 year olds and 78% of 5 year olds in the Early Steps program scored at or above the normal range for vocabulary acquisition. On average, young children were read to 20 times per month.  In the school-age literacy program, more than 80 percent of regularly participating children who began the school year reading below grade level showed significant reading improvement at the end of the school year. On average, literacy improvement was the equivalent to an additional 5.9 months of schooling.

Tim Kusserow, Carlthorp’s Head of School summarized the trip by saying, “What an incredibly eye opening experience this trip was as an educator. I had the opportunity to travel with two young alumni whose desire to give back and pay forward the education that they received at Carlthorp School was so strong. I am inspired by the impact that Lily and Michael made on the students they taught throughout the trip, but more significantly, we walked away with a greater appreciation for the gifts in our lives and an even deeper sense of gratitude. I am committed to continuing our partnership with Save the Children and hope to return with more alumni fellows in the upcoming years.”