On October 5, 2018, the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce presented an award to Stewarts at the Utah Valley Education Forum. Alena Sherman, Stewarts’ office manager, attended the ceremony and accepted the award for Stewarts.
The forum celebrated business-education partnerships. Aspen Elementary nominated Stewarts because of the many hours Stewarts’ employees have volunteered at the school.
“It was a hands-down decision when it came to deciding what company we could submit to the Utah Valley Chamber of Commerce,” Terry Matau, Aspen Elementary school’s reading program coordinator, said. “The impact the secretaries give is the one-to-one correspondence with these students, tutoring kids from kindergarten to 5th grade.”
Over the past two years, Stewarts’ secretaries have spent over 1,300 hours volunteering at Aspen Elementary reading with children.
Last week Stewarts’ secretaries started volunteering again. During our off-season from November to March, each secretary spends about 3 hours a day reading with children. It’s been pivotal for the students and a joy for the secretaries.
“The feelings you get from volunteering there are so neat because you helped a child out with their reading,” Bri Ojeda, a secretary at Stewarts, said. “I feel like we’re giving back to the community. By doing this, we show the values Stewarts has at its core. Working at the school is one of the things that makes those values evident. How many companies allow you to volunteer while being on the clock?”
The secretaries help the students graduate from the Student Achievement for Reading (STAR) program. The STAR program is designed by the Utah State Board of Education for students who read under grade level.
“The students’ scores are going up because of the one-to-one tutoring that really gives the students that push,” Terry said. “The STAR program doesn’t put them on grade level but helps them surpass grade level. Stewarts has provided that extra help the students need.”
Each secretary gets a set of students assigned to her, and she reads with each student one-on-one for a half-hour every day. The secretaries work with students of all ages from kindergarteners learning sight words to 5th graders who are struggling with reading.
“It’s fun because you get to know these kids really well,” Alena said. “You have your set students, and you find the things that work for them.”
Stewarts’ secretaries look forward to the opportunity each year, and they become the students’ friends.
“We get to know how they’re doing at home and why they’re struggling with reading or communication,” Macenzie Cortes, a secretary at Stewarts, said. “We really get to know them and not just teach them.”
Stewarts’ secretaries found the service opportunity two years ago on justserve.org, a website that connects organizations with volunteers. This is Stewarts’ third year volunteering at Aspen Elementary, and we don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
“I hope it stays a tradition for a long time,” Alena said.