Alder mentors offer MORE to students

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick

Martha Wilson (center, back), the Project MORE mentor with the most volunteer hours (156), stands surrounded by the third- and fourth-grade Jonathan Alder students with whom she worked on reading this school year: (from left) Duncan Gholson, Joey Parthemore, Ryan Sullivan, Jessica Osorio, Andrew Reasoner and Kayla Harsh. For photos of other mentors, go to and click on “Madison.”

As Doug Weakley found his seat at one of the red-and-black decorated tables, he asked the girl next to him how her parents were doing and the boy one seat down how his test went earlier that week.

Then, another young gentleman approached him with an oversized, homemade card, which Weakley immediately took the time to read.

“It was about how much I liked meeting with him,” explained the card-maker, Jacob Pollom, one of many fourth-graders at Plain City Elementary for whom Weakley and his wife, Connie, served as reading mentors this school year.

The scene was the first annual Project MORE recognition banquet, held May 22 at the Catholic Parish Hall in Plain City. The event honored the 10 volunteers and 14 students from Plain City and Monroe elementaries who took part in the program.

Project MORE is designed to improve the literacy skills of students with disabilities. Third- and fourth-grade students were assessed in September and placed at certain levels in the “Reading A to Z” book series. They then met with volunteer mentors for three or four 30-minute reading sessions per week.

 Dr. John Adams
Pat Cooke
Betty Ferguson 
 Pastor Mike Sammons
Doug Weakley 

“I want you mentors to know these children absolutely adore you and loved the time they spent with you,” said Kathy Welch, special education supervisor at Jonathan Alder. “If a student was absent, the others would fight over that extra spot with a mentor.”

Erin Priday, the MORE coordinator at Monroe, and Amy Hicks, the coordinator at Plain City, were pleased with the progress students made with their mentors. At Plain City, all of the participants progressed at least five steps in the “A to Z” series. The same goes for Monroe, where one child even made it through eight steps and another through 12.

“I’ve helped with various programs at Plain City Elementary. I liked this one because there were activities in addition to reading,” said Dr. John Adams, a MORE volunteer and member of the Jonathan Alder Board of Education. “Other programs are more about phonetics and fluency skills. This one is about understanding what you read. We’d ask students what they knew about a book’s subject before we started, then talk about it as we went through.”

Adams enjoyed watching his mentees go from being nervous about exercises, like timed reading tests, to becoming more comfortable with their abilities.

Martha Wilson, who amassed 156 volunteer hours (or 312 half-hour sessions) as a MORE mentor, was thrilled to receive that same “payment.”

“I was rewarded much more than the children just by getting to see their progress,” she said.

Wilson found out about the program from her daughter, Kelly Hicks, principal at Plain City Elementary. She trained at both elementary schools and chose to volunteer at Monroe where the list of mentors was shorter.

Betty Ferguson got “roped into” volunteering while taking part in an interview project with students last school year.

“They were doing a program about old people,” Ferguson said with a laugh. “Afterwards, they asked us to sign up to help at the school… I’m glad I did. It’s been very enjoyable. I have recommended it to my friends. I hope to get them involved next year.”

Ferguson said she appreciated how easy it was to participate. For each session, the Project MORE coordinators mapped out lesson plans for the mentors to follow.

“The program is so structured, anybody can do it,” Hicks said.

In addition to those already named, this year’s MORE mentors included Amy Bidwell, Judy Bodenbender, Pat Cooke, Mary Lou Lovejoy and Pastor Mike Sammons.

Funding for Project MORE comes from a state-issued grant in coordination with the Putnam County Educational Service Center and the Ohio Council for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

For details about becoming a reading mentor at Jonathan Alder, contact next year’s coordinators—Amy Hicks at Plain City Elementary, 614-873-4608, or Stacy Sayer at Monroe Elementary, 873-8503.

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