With founder and president Roberta Klein entering her final year as the program’s guiding light, the annual volunteer luncheon was dedicated to recognizing her great achievements.
Dr. Edwin Gomez, RWM board member and Superintendent of the Riverside County Office of Education, set the stage with the keynote in which he detailed how Roberta designed and founded the program in 2004 and led it to incredible success.
Starting with a single school, Mecca Elementary – deep in Coachella Valley’s agricultural region -- Roberta recruited volunteers from a number of area churches, arranged to have them transported by a school bus, sit at desks, open books, and read with kids from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.
Those early church-school relationships grew so that today 500 volunteers from eight churches, civic groups, and a country club connect with almost 10,000 students in 17 elementary schools in the Coachella Valley and two in Reno, Nevada, on a twice-a-week basis.
In addition, Read With Me will distribute 35,000 new books to each student by the end of the current school term.
From 2004 until 2014 she operated virtually by herself with support from her husband, Clay.
She developed a management system that put volunteer coordinators in charge of each school’s volunteer corps.
As part of the expansion, she developed a training program for volunteers and raised money to fund the program, including paying part of the costs of bus transportation and managed every detail of the day-to-day operations.
By 2014, the program was secure enough to hire a single administrative assistant.
The aggregate numbers describe how impactful the Read With Me program has been. Since 2004, almost 5,000 volunteers have worked with more than 98,000 elementary school students. In addition, the program raised $3.7 million to, among other things, purchase 269,000 new books that the kids took home.
Most importantly, participation in the program translated into success for the kids. Students who participated in the tutoring program scored substantially higher on their annual test and the graduation rate improved by more than 30 percent.
All these accomplishments are the result of Roberta Klein’s creativity and sense of purpose and commitment to Coachella Valley communities and their kids. (See biography)
Her contributions to the greater Coachella Valley community were also recognized by government and religious leaders. Six proclamations were presented including:
The California Assembly (Picture of proclamation)
Congressional recognitions from Congressman Raul Ruiz and Congressman Ken Calvert
The Riverside County Office of Education
The Riverside County Supervisors
The Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino
The Luther Synod of Southern California
Kindergarten student Aleyzia Guzman of Las Palmitas spoke for “all the kids” from “all the schools” in thanking Roberta and all the volunteers for helping kids “like me” learn to read.
A special video from second graders at Cathedral City Elementary School was shown to end the program.