Trenton, NJ: On Wednesday, March 22, Mercer Street Friends, a nonprofit whose mission supports local families through comprehensive food and education programs, hosted an award ceremony and luncheon to recognize achievement in reading for first grade students at Luis Muñoz-Rivera Elementary School in Trenton, New Jersey.
Forty students and their parents, along with Rivera Principal Dr. Olivia Russo, Assistant Superintendents Dr. Channing Conway and Dr. Jose M. Rodriguez, and Mercer Street Friends Reading Intervention Specialists, Site Coordinators, and administrators, including CEO Bernie Flynn, gathered in the school’s gym for remarks, awards and lunch.
“During the pandemic there was an obvious increased need for small group reading support at our Community Schools,” said Flynn, former CEO of NJM Insurance Group who has volunteered his time as the CEO of Mercer Street Friends since February 2020.
“What began as a simple program of pairing struggling students with reading teachers and college students while school was virtual, has evolved into a robust Reading Intervention Program coordinated and staffed by Mercer Street Friends with the goal of ensuring first to third grade students are reading at grade level proficiency and above.”
“The results have been extraordinary,” says Bernadette Trapp, Director of Community Schools at Mercer Street Friends. “Through our programs, students learn fluent decoding and encoding skills and receive instruction in word structure and word recognition, spelling of high frequency words, reading and listening comprehension, proofreading skills, self-monitoring for word recognition and much more.”
Dr. Russo shared that literacy is dear to her heart. “I believe that if the children can learn to read and love to read, it opens the doors for so many different avenues.” Russo thanked the Mercer Street team, “I am so thrilled to be able to bring this [program] to the school through Mercer Street Friends.”
During the celebration event, Rivera parents sat in small groups listening to their child read a book they chose for the event.
“One of the most rewarding results of this program is seeing how proud the students are of their achievements,” said Courtney Matlock, Chief Development & Marketing Officer at Mercer Street Friends. “In this program, we are working with children in grades first through third. Building a strong foundation and confidence in reading is paramount for young learners.”
During the program, each student was called to the podium to receive a framed certificate.
“The excitement in the room was palpable as evidenced by proud parents taking pictures and video recording their child’s moment,” Matlock said, “a proud moment students and parents will remember for years to come.”
Since 2015, Mercer Street Friends has been the lead agency for the Community Schools initiative in the Trenton School District. A full-service Community School is a public elementary or secondary school that uses established partnerships between schools and community organizations to provide well-rounded educational opportunities and meet the social, emotional, physical and mental health, and academic needs of students. Mercer Street Friends provides comprehensive services to schools, students, and families throughout the year, including after school enrichment and summer programs.
In addition to Rivera, Mercer Street Friends partners with two other Trenton-based Community Schools; B.C. Gregory Elementary School, where the organization provides Site Coordinators, Case Managers and Reading Interventionists, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School with Site Coordinators and Case Managers.
ABOUT MERCER STREET FRIENDS
As a Quaker-affiliated, nonsectarian 501(c)(3) organization, Mercer Street Friends is dedicated to nourishing minds and bodies, empowering families and communities by providing comprehensive programs to address poverty and the physical and emotional trauma it creates for children, families and the community. Their work is focused on three critical areas: food, families, and education. To learn more about Mercer Street Friends, visit mercerstreetfriends.org.