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Power Lunch Program Promotes Early Literacy

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg reads with his buddy Francisco

Every Friday at lunchtime, employees of local businesses and members of service organizations ditch the break room and hustle and bustle of restaurants to spend 45 minutes reading to and with second- and third-grade students. The DPS School Partners Program called “Power Lunch” pairs each volunteer reading mentor with the same early reader every week to boost students’ confidence and reading proficiency. 

This effort aligns with DPS’ goal that 80% of third-grade students be at or above grade level in reading and writing by the year 2020. Last year, Mile High United Way coordinated 345 Power Lunch volunteers, serving 245 DPS at nine schools.
Last week, DPS volunteers, including Superintendent Tom Boasberg, and volunteers from Assured Title Agency met with their early readers at Greenlee Elementary – one of the nine high-needs schools participating in the Power Lunch program. 
“Power Lunch is a great opportunity to make a real impact on a student’s education,” Boasberg said. “I look forward to spending time working with my paired student, Francisco, and I can see how energized about reading he and his classmates are when we get together.”
In its third year of helping students, the Power Lunch program allows businesses and community service organizations to assemble a team of volunteers to adopt a second- or third-grade classroom and read to students once a week. The program provides volunteers with training, classroom support, logistical coordination and even bus transportation from office to school.
“Anyone can be a reading mentor through the Power Lunch program,” Boasberg said. “It doesn’t require a background in education, it only requires 45 minutes per week and the desire to connect with a student and make a difference in their education. It’s beneficial to the students and is incredibly rewarding for the volunteers to see students’ progress as the school year goes on.”
While the Power Lunch program currently has 10 organizations supporting it, the need far outweighs available volunteers. This fall, there are three additional classrooms in DPS seeking volunteer readers. That amounts to more than 75 students who are in need of a reading buddy. 
“This program has tremendous impact both on the students and on the volunteers,” said Kristin Heath Colon, President & CEO of the DPS Foundation. “We can have further impact if even more community members will step forward to meet this need in our schools.”
Power Lunch is one of a myriad of corporate volunteer engagement programs operated by the DPS School Partners Program, a collaboration between the DPS Foundation, Mile High United Way and Denver Public Schools. The School Partners Program creates tailor-made partnerships between schools and businesses to help every DPS student succeed.  School Partners provide a combination of volunteer time, in-kind contributions and financial resources to meet the specific needs of their partner school. Currently, 55 businesses and organizations are active school partners. Last year, School Partners donated over 9,000 hours of volunteer time and $500,000 in in-kind contributions to DPS schools.
“Each of us has a role that we can, and should, play to support the progress in our schools,” said Colon. “The School Partners Program is an incredibly easy way to do just that. Our mission is to custom-fit school partnerships that best leverage the talents, interests and availability of every community organization with the needs of individual schools and classrooms.  It’s a win-win. Together, we can ensure that Every Child Succeeds.”

Learn more about Power Lunch