Program Report: Todd Taylor and the Rangers Ripple Effect


You can always expect a lively and well-prepared presentation from President Designate Todd Taylor and this one was no exception. For many years Todd has chaired the Education Committee, which over that time grew to incorporate not just the Reading Rangers project but everything several sub-groups had been doing.

For this review of the accomplishments of the Committee Todd used the “ripple effect” as a metaphor for the progression of our involvement with the schools. The first drop as Todd described it was the review of a grant request to add some books to a school library. During that process we learned that something like 44% of DPS kids couldn’t read at grade level. This raised the question, “Why provide books to kids that couldn’t read.”

The initial grant request, or the initial drop, evolved into the first ripple, a Foundation Grant and turned $2000 into almost $12,000 and provided about $4,000 worth of books to three different schools.

To solve the reading problem the third ripple became the Reading Rangers, a theme created by Todd and introduced by him in cowboy fashion, which appeared often when he gave updates or was recruiting new Rangers.

We have amassed thousands of hours of tutoring, most of it at Y.E. Smith Elementary on East Main Street. The numbers are important, but the experience is more important and Todd turned the podium over to two past presidents and tutors for all six years of the program, Susan Ross and Don Stanger. Don’s participation has been unique because besides being a regular tutor at Y.E. Smith he began tutoring a young 6th grader at Neal Middle School as well and shared the experience of the friendship developed as they read together a book called the “The Other Wes Moore” about the divergent fates of two boys with the same name.

The third ripple was a partnership with Book Harvest that was led by Mimi O’Brian to provide 10 books for summer reading to each Y.E. Smith student at an annual Books on Break project. Ripple four was an annual spelling bee at Y.E. Smith and was “staffed” by rangers for judging.

This led to ripple four the Little Libraries project which planted 9 Little Libraries around town. Todd and Joe Houde organized this including the building of the libraries and we have a great photo of Carolyn Aaronson using her artistic talents to decorate one of the libraries.

Todd and Michel Tharp worked together to create ripple six to connect kids from YE Smith to kids from Ahmedabad India via teleconference.

Ripple seven has been mentioned, that is pulling all these efforts together in the Education Committee, pulling in things like Books on Break and the scholarship work of Marge and Meg Solera

Todd asked Rotarian David Reese who runs the East Durham Children’s Imitative to talk about ripple 8, our partnership with them.

Ripple nine occurred this year when Past President Vandana Dake and her partner and husband John Warasila began a “Friday Club” at YE Smith focused on Engineering and Architecture. They are helping the kids follow the Golden Belt Renovation.

Marge Nordstrom talked about ripple 10, a partnership with the Augustine group to get some advanced training in helping kids read.

Todd wrapped up with a plea to jump in yourself and make a big splash and lots of ripples.

I’m going to jump in and add a few footnotes.

First, Todd Taylor is the hardest working Rotarian I know even if he was helped by the posse from Duke Corporate Education that were his guests for the presentation and all the other folks at DCE whose facilities the Education Committee often uses.

Second, and this may be a ripple…cool kids doing cool things…provide a good opportunity to publicize the Club and the video conference with the kids in India is the best example of that.

Third, and this may be a ripple as well; when the Rangers program began I was apprehensive that the staff and teachers would resent a bunch of well meaning do-gooders invading their classrooms and giving them something else to worry about. I couldn’t have been more wrong and the current coordinator at YE Smith Meghan Antol confirmed that during the presentation. What you do get is a sense of the challenges that teachers face in our system and a greater appreciation of the effort needed to help these kids.

Fourth, I was personally concerned back then was that I’d never taught kids this young before. What I found is that we didn’t necessarily get the hardcore dyslectics or others that weren’t reading at all. The school system has specialists for that. As much as anything it’s a matter of encouragement, confidence building and socialization, or just being a friend.

Todd has also done a great job of using the website to describe the various programs of the Education committee so there is more information by clicking on the “education” tab. You can also use the search box to see the write-ups that were done for any of these program, often with pictures.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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