For more than 20 years, the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid has coordinated the America Reads/America Counts program, a federal work-study program.
Through the program, eligible University of Nebraska–Lincoln students are hired to work as tutors in local elementary classrooms and after-school programs within the Lincoln Public Schools system. Tutors partner directly with LPS classroom educators to help improve reading levels and math performance, among other supports.
Of the 1,300 qualified work-study students, Nebraska places about 100 student tutors through America Reads/America Counts annually. Due to the pandemic, however, that number plummeted to just 10 last year. With fewer students returning to the program this year, most will be new tutors as the program rebuilds.
“As elementary students head back to the classroom this fall, it is our priority to get tutors back into the classroom, working with students, to help with reading and math skills,” said Justin Chase Brown, director of scholarships and financial aid and a doctoral student in educational studies.
Students must be eligible for work-study in order to apply to be an America Reads/America Counts tutor. Federal work-study provides part-time jobs during the academic year for students who demonstrate financial need and who earn wages to pay a part of their educational expenses.
Nebraska alumna Samantha Wolff worked with America Reads/America Counts for three years at Hartley Elementary in Lincoln. Wolff said she always knew she wanted to put school first and didn’t want a job to overshadow that, so she did her own research.
“Work-study allows for flexibility around academics,” she said. “Work-study jobs realize that you’re a student first. That was really appealing to me.”
Eligible students were invited to apply for America Reads/America Counts this summer. Those applicants will participate in interview fairs with local LPS school staff August 25-26.
“At a time when 1-to-1 connections are important, it’s rewarding to know our students are helping to grow flexible, nimble and strong minds,” said Patrick Winter, associate vice chancellor for academic services and enrollment management. “It’s why America Reads/America Counts will remain an institutional commitment to our community.”
“It sounds cheesy, but I’ve watched some kids grow up,” Wolff said. “I met them when they were in third grade, and now they’re going to be middle schoolers. I’ve developed some great relationships with my students.”
For more information about UNL’s America Reads/America Counts program, contact Justin Chase Brown at email@example.com.