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Reading Partners South Carolina wins statewide award from The Riley Institute

Don Gordon, executive director of The Riley Institute, presents the award to members of Reading Partners South Carolina (from left) Kecia Greenho, Cierra Rogers and Emily Swanson.

Reading Partners South Carolina received the eleventh annual Dick and Tunky Riley WhatWorksSC Award for Excellence and corresponding $10,000 prize during a virtual celebration of South Carolina public education presented by Furman University’s Riley Institute on November 9.

Former United States Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Dick Riley recognized Reading Partners as the winner of the award, which is given to a program that is positively impacting public education in South Carolina. The award is named for Riley and his late wife, Ann “Tunky” Riley, a devoted teacher and passionate advocate for quality public education for all children.

“I think we all should all take as many opportunities as we can to celebrate our educators — especially after such a difficult 20 months — which is exactly what we are doing today,” Secretary Riley said.

In addition to Reading Partners South Carolina receiving the $10,000 award, two finalists, Bridges to a Brighter Future, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and Charleston Promise Neighborhood, each received $1,000.

The award celebration also featured remarks from sitting United States Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, who offered his congratulations to the finalists, and South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, who spoke about engaging students creatively through the arts as they recover from pandemic-related unfinished learning.

Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Reading Partners South Carolina places community volunteers in low-income schools to help children master basic reading through individualized one-on-one tutoring. By working to improve reading comprehension, reading fluency, and sight-word reading, the program helps put participants on track to read on grade level by the end of third grade.

“Winning the 2021 WhatWorksSC Award is an honor for Reading Partners South Carolina and will allow us to continue bringing evidence-based literacy programming to students across the state,” said Kecia Greenho, senior executive director. “As we provide our traditional in-person program and expand our virtual tutoring program, we see the potential for a much stronger future for many young readers who have been disparately impacted by systems of inequity and unfinished learning due to COVID-19.”

With the expansion of its virtual programming, Reading Partners Connects, Greenho said Reading Partners is recruiting volunteers to help serve students.

A committee of corporate leaders and education experts selected the winner and finalists from a large pool of entries based on effectiveness as evidenced by their research, resource allocation and sustainability.

Bridges to a Brighter Future provides long-term, need-based support to promising high school students who live in communities that are traditionally underrepresented in higher education and helps them on their path to and through college. Charleston Promise Neighborhood partners with under-resourced early-learning and elementary schools to co-design strategies to improve academic and social outcomes for students and their families through school-day supports and afterschool programming.

Both the winner and finalists will become members of The Riley Institute’s WhatWorksSC Clearinghouse, an online resource that collects and shares key strategies for improving South Carolina’s public schools, and be featured on South Carolina ETV’s knowitall.org, which compiles thousands of media resources for teachers and students from pre-K through 12th grade.

The 2021 WhatWorksSC Award Celebration was made possible through the generous support of sponsors: Riley Pope & Laney, LLC; South Carolina Afterschool Alliance; South Carolina Association of School Administrators; The South Carolina Education Association; South Carolina Education Oversight Committee; South Carolina ETV; and South Carolina School Boards Association.

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