A student connection

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Miller eighth-grader and Al Exito member Damien Rosas, right, reads to Franklin students Carter Bracy, center, and Carson Kensler, left.

Student relationships are being formed over books and good conversation at Franklin Elementary School courtesy of a Miller Middle School leadership group.

Eighth graders from Al Exito, a Latino/a-focused student leadership organization, began a program of walking a few blocks to Franklin to read to elementary students earlier this week.

“I like the idea that these guys get to interact with the little ones. The kids at Franklin are going to benefit and get excited about reading,” Miller teacher and Al Exito facilitator Oscar Cardenas said. “And I think it helps our kids build their confidence on so many levels, not just the reading but leadership as well.”

He said a similar experience shaped his desire to become a teacher when he was a student.

The eighth graders involved in the program have enjoyed being mentors to the younger students.

“I like it because I like interacting with little kids because they’re more fun to be around. They remind you of yourself when you were little,” Miller student Damien Rosas said.

He and fellow Al Exito member Naydelin Ramirez said they and their students took turns reading their books earlier this week.

“It’s helping them to learn how to read better,” Naydelin said.

“We got to know more about them and read to them at the same time. In between the readings, we had small discussions, if they liked the book or not and things like that,” Miller student Vannesa Medel said.

She and Cardenas said the Franklin reading program was one of several community outreach ideas the Al Exito students came up with. The ability to walk to Franklin and the work of a counselor at that building, Dani Minkel, made the reading program a reality.

“Each Miller mentor has two to three kids in their group. They come on every Tuesday,” Minkel said.

She said both the older and younger students benefit from the program. The Franklin students were picked because teachers identified a need for them to get more reading practice.

“It’s also a time to build a relationship with an older peer,” Minkel said. “It’s even more helpful for them to see a middle school student who they really look up to.”

She said the younger students are also free to talk to their mentors about their lives in and outside of school.

Damien said he is enthusiastic about continuing to build relationships with his elementary mentees.

“I look forward to getting to know them better and see what they like about the book and what genres they like,” he said.

Cardenas said he hopes some of the older students in reading program become inspired to help others learn, just like he did when he was a student.

“I hope some of them come out of the experience wanting to work with kids or go into education,” he said.