Rhayden's Story: From 'Learning to Read' to 'Reading to Learn'


When you meet Rhayden, a sixth grader at Morningside Middle School, you would never guses that his fourth grade teacher described him as quiet and introverted. With individualized support from Communities in Schools (CIS), a Trident United Way (TUW) funded partern, Rhayden's reading level improved by a grade and a half in two years. His confidence has soared as a result, helping him make the transition to middle school.
Born premature and underweight, Rhayden's mother Charis describes her son as playing catch up both physically and academically ever since. Shy and hesitant to socialize with his classmates at Burns Elementary School, he was also reluctant to read in class and often felt discouraged with his schoolwork.
In third grade, CIS Student Support Specialist Ms. Sacco stepped in after overhearing Rhayden's younger brother worrying over his broken shoe in the car pickup line. She introduced herself to Rhayden's family and outlined the difference kinds of services CIS and other TUW partners could provide, including basic needs, bill assistance and academic supports for Rhayden. 
Ms. Sacco is an in-demand resource who manages a caseload of more than 40 students in a school where all 400 could easily benefit from assistance and resources. Despite her workload, she knows every child's name and develops personal connections with each of them. In addition to enrolling Rhayden in resource services to improve his reading and writing skills, Ms. Sacco also paired him with a Lunch Buddy. He joined a social skills group to help improve his self-esteem.
"Before, Rhayden wanted to quit, but now he is confident and wants to read," Charis explains. "It is thanks to the supports he received he was middle school-ready."
While Rhayden still faces challenges as he continues to close the gap in his reading skills, his smile illustrates the confidence he has as he moves forward in school and prepares for a productive future.
Trident United Way was able to help CIS provide academic support to 327 students in 10 schools in the 2015-2016 school year.