Witten invests in reading program for local kids

Published 10:25 pm Friday, September 22, 2017

ELIZABETHTON, TENN. – In the midst of his football camp in June, Jason Witten and his wife Michelle, made a $25,000 gift to the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County. This gift will be used to help local youth succeed in school through a year-round literacy program called “Club Lit” at the Boys & Girls Club.
One of the Boys & Girls Club’s primary initiatives is helping Club members achieve academic success. For some, this is a simple process where all they need is a little extra motivation and assistance with their homework. However, for those who are performing below grade level, achieving academic success requires targeted programs where they can develop new skills that will help them in catching up with their peers. Elizabeth Williams, Resource Development and Marketing Director for the local Club, explained, “Through the Witten’s generosity and support, we are able to implement ‘Club Lit’ which is designed to build literacy skills such as reading and comprehension through multiple Club activities.” She went on to explain that Club Lit will include year-round academic programming but will also allow the Club for the first time to provide a targeted reading intervention program in the summer of 2018.
For the summer reading intervention program, the Club will use an evidence-based curriculum that is designed to build fluency and comprehension and which is proven to provide academic gains. Ginny Wright, Executive Director for the Club, explained, “Taking advantage of the summer months is key if you’re going to help kids improve their academic performance. It’s when you have enough time every day to help them build those missing skills.” The Club will select 50 rising 1st through 4th grade Club members who are not reading on grade level to participate in the program. Wright  went on, “The fourth grade is seen in the academic community as a turning point where students go from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’, a transition that compounds the affect that students may experience when they are not reading on grade level.” By targeting this age, the Club hopes to make a deep impact on academic performance as success in all areas hinges on the ability to read, understand what is read, and communicate in clear and correct language. While the summer reading intervention program is offered to those deemed as most in-need of the service, all Club members will benefit from the year-round programming which includes things such as Power Hour and High Yield Learning Activities. Both are designed to motivate youth and bolster interest in various subjects while aiding in skill development.
Williams explained, “We absolutely could not do this without the support of Jason and Michelle Witten. Their family does so much for this area, but this program in particular will be truly life changing for our kids. And their gift is what will allow us to kick it off.” While this will be the first time the Club has implemented Club Lit, the plan is to use its success to build funding to continue it in coming years.
Through the SCORE Foundation, the Witten family has launched numerous outreach programs and funded several new building projects in Texas and in Tennessee. Witten has made a name for himself as one of the top tight ends in professional football, but he is arguably one of the NFL’s most generous players as well. Here in Elizabethton, the community sees his impact first hand, but he has also been recognized on a national level through multiple awards, including the Bart Starr Award and being named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year. Jason Witten told us, “Growing up in Elizabethton gave me a lot of things. It gave me people who helped me and experiences that made me into the person I am today. Michelle and I hope that this gift will do the same for someone else. We might not know their name now, but one day, we hope their lives are better because of their experiences too.”
For more information on the SCORE Foundation, visit http://jasonwitten82.com/foundation/. For information on the Boys & Girls Club of Elizabethton/Carter County or to see how you can become involved, call (423) 543-2946 or visit www.bgcecc.org.

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