Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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October 21, 2012

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Goshen resident brings community, students together to benefit education

GOSHEN — Michelle Kercher spends her days connecting school children to role models in the community as the coordinator of volunteers for Goshen Community Schools.

Through her recruitment efforts, entire classes of second graders are learning “Real Men Read.”

Other students are getting one-on-one attention from “Reading Buddies.”

Those two programs are funded by United Way of Elkhart County mini-grants. Kercher’s job of 18 months is also funded through the United Way. She also works at West Goshen Elementary School, recruiting volunteers to help out in classrooms with the ICARE program. That position is funded through Title 1, a federal program.

The former Michelle Keidaish grew up near Parkside Elementary School in the 1,000 block of Eighth Street, where her mom still lives. In high school, she was a diver for three years and in Crimsonaires for one.

After graduating from Butler University, she worked as a Title 1 paraprofessional at Chandler Elementary School, then for six years as a kindergarten teacher in Middlebury. She stayed home with her children for five years, then served as director of the Good Shepherd Preschool.

Kercher’s current job is all about involving the community in the education of its children.

In the “Real Men Read” program, male volunteers visit second grade classes in all the schools for four weeks from October to November.

“They read a picture book to the class, talk about their job, and how reading impacts their personal life,” Kercher said.

“Real Men” volunteers include local lawyers, the mayor, fire and police chiefs and the director of a local funeral home. Kercher said volunteers from all walks of life are welcome. She said one goal of the program is to involve more Latinos and other minority volunteers, so the volunteer pool reflects the diversity of the student population.

“The idea behind the program is that a lot of the students don’t have a strong male role model in their life,” Kercher said. “It enables us to get more men connected with the schools.”

With Reading Buddies, volunteers spend an hour on Tuesdays or Thursdays in the afternoon reading to their “buddy” and being read to, along with other activities.

Last year, one company that participated was Yoder-Ainlay-Ulmer and Buckingham. Five employees were allowed to volunteer on company time.

“Our goal is to build relationships with as many businesses as we can,” Kercher said.

The idea is to get as many businesses as possible to commit two volunteers for the duration—one for each Tuesday and one for each Thursday from Feb. 4 to March 25.

“That is a nine-hour commitment with training,” Kercher said.

Schools involved include Model, Parkside and Waterford, with West Goshen’s program pending. A total of 160 volunteers are needed.

Anyone interested can call or email Kercher at mkercher@goshenschools.org 535-3086.

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