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NDRC receives $189,000 grant

Jamestown’s youngest students will be receiving help from the federal government to prevent them from falling through the cracks.

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The North Dakota Reading Corps, which operates in Jamestown, Fargo and West Fargo, will receive $189,000 from AmeriCorps to support its programming in the three cities and to expand into Bismarck and Mandan in the next school year.

AmeriCorps is a government program that encourages volunteerism, and the money will be spent to improve literacy skills for children in grades three and under. The North Dakota Reading Corps is a regional initiative that combines AmeriCorps volunteers and proven literacy education science to help children learn to read.

Students in the program are below reading proficiency levels for their grade level, but their proficiency is not low enough to qualify for supplemental reading services provided by school staff.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., a supporter of the NDRC program since it began, announced the grant award on a media conference call Monday morning, and said she’s seen the positive effects of the program firsthand.

“The Reading Corps is playing a crucial role in making sure that many more children have access to early childhood education and I can’t stress enough how important it is,” Heitkamp said. “Students who don’t read proficiently by grade three are four times, four times more likely than proficient readers to drop out of high school so we know that these programs work.”

In a news release from the South East Education Cooperative, the agency that oversees the NDRC program, the SEEC said during the 2012-2013 school year 22 AmeriCorps volunteers worked with 421 elementary students in NDRC and 374 were able to achieve grade-level reading proficiency.

The grant money will be used to train 40 AmeriCorps-NDRC volunteers who will work in 36 elementary and pre-kindergarten schools. Amy Walters, NDRC grant director, said she was unsure exactly how much money would be going to Jamestown, but five of those volunteers will be working in Jamestown with one at each elementary school providing tutoring and literacy intervention beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

Heitkamp said the grant was very competitive and Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Rob Lech said the SEEC put in a lot of work to get the grant.

“It’s part of our strategic plan to look into our literacy and improving literacy scores across the district and this a great way to support us in doing that,” Lech said.

School Board member Greg Allen recently attended the National School Board Association convention in New Orleans earlier this year and said one of the focuses was on early elementary reading proficiency in his report from the convention at Monday’s regular School Board meeting.

“The statistics will show that the (educational) gaps widen at the fourth grade if they’re not able to read,” Allen said. “We’ve put some things in place to help close those gaps and we have to … Their approach is that every child must be able to read at grade level by the fourth grade and they’re actually doing it.”

In addition to the grant for NDRC, the North Dakota AmeriCorps division will also receive $600,000 for other service projects in the state. To become an AmeriCorps volunteer and work with the NDRC, contact Jolene Garty at (701) 446-3173 or email

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by