The Philanthropy Collaborative

Regional Case Studies

Everybody Wins! DC Tale

Starting in second grade, her lunchtime reading partner on Tuesdays gave Jasmine Harrison "someone to want to do well for and make proud," she says. Her partner certainly was proud. Indeed, Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the partner, has been exceedingly proud not only of Jasmine - who is now a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University - but also of his overall participation in Everybody Wins! DC, the largest literacy and mentoring program in the Washington area.

Senator Kennedy read with Jasmine once a week for five years at Brent Elementary School, six blocks from the U.S. Senate. He rarely missed the hour of poring over fun books, keeping a log of words Jasmine didn't yet know, and discussing her days, interests and concerns.

He has been one of thousands of volunteers - including other members of Congress, congressional staffers, government employees, toilers from law firms, defense corporations, the media world, communications companies, education groups and elsewhere - who have helped thousand of students acquire a love of reading and learning each week at lunchtime during the school year.

Senator Kennedy with Jasmine Harrison at Brent Elementary School.
They clearly make important differences in students' lives. Consider, for example, not only Senator Kennedy and Jasmine, who plans to be a teacher, but Derek Warren, who recently had a surprise reunion with his former reading mentor, Jack Jackson, the Director of Administration and Human Resources for C-Span.

Derek first met Jack 14 years ago at Walker Jones Elementary School, where Derek serves today as assistant football coach and is a community volunteer in the school's Everybody Wins! DC program. When Jack recently phoned the Everybody Wins! office there, Derek immediately remembered him, and the two arranged to get together, cameras in hand.

"When I spoke with Derek he remembered me, my voice and his favorite book that we read together every year several times - Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood," in which a mother saves her seven children from a witch who has changed them into different kinds of food ... "It amazed me that he remembered that book so fondly."

Derek, a recent high school graduate, explains why. First, he says, "I didn't know my father growing up and Jack treated me with respect and made me feel like I was one of his own [kids]." Then he adds: "As a kid I never had a birthday party. One year, Jack brought in balloons and a cake to celebrate my birthday. It's the best birthday I've ever had."

As Mary Salander, the co-founder of Everybody Wins! DC who is its Executive Director, says, "There are so many young people like Derek out there, and so many Reading Mentors who are just like Jack . . . They are not just helping a child learn to love reading. They are also providing a significant positive influence in their lives. It really does make a difference. At Everybody Wins! DC, we applaud all the Reading Mentors who generously donate their time and talents to better the lives of underserved students."

The reunion of Reading Mentor Jack Jackson and former student Derek Warren.

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