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Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotary helps with guided reading program in Waubun-Ogema-White Earth

Ogema Elementary School Principal Laurie Johnson (center) recently accepted a check from Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotarians (left to right) Andy Van Dam, Mary Rotter and Mike Stearns. The funds are being used to implement a guided reading program in the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District. (Submitted photo)

Back in 2015, when Laurie Johnson, principal of Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District, mentioned that their elementary school lacked a guided reading program, Detroit Lakes Breakfast Rotarian Mary Rotter listened.

Mary understands the importance of childhood programs to promote literacy. Along with her husband, Eric, Mary owns a child care center and a preschool in Detroit Lakes. With a personal background in child education, she understands that an organized guided reading program gives students one more valuable tool in improving reading skills. A guided reading program is a wide selection of books, with many copies of these books, which increase in skill level as you advance through the books. Having multiple copies of these books allow the classroom teachers to select reading materials for every student at every student's reading level, keeping students more engaged and allowing them to advance through the books at a level acceptable to each student.

Rotter then visited with the club's then-president, Andy Van Dam. She told him that she believed that the Breakfast Rotary could help implement a guided reading program in

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth. Youth programs and literacy programs are two ideal goals of the club, and Van Dam enthusiastically supported the idea, as did the approximately 60 members of the club.

Breakfast Rotary is part of Rotary International, a worldwide organization of service-minded people, with the goal of helping out both worldwide and locally. Club members recognized that some financial help would be beneficial to making this project a reality, and members began researching grant programs through Rotary International. Within the organization's local district (5580), the District Grant — Local Community Project was determined to be the ideal path to take. Through coordination with Laurie Johnson, and other members of the school district, a grant was submitted to the Rotary district's grant committee for about one half of the approximate $8,000 cost for the guided reading program. The other half was covered by monies collected from fundraisers completed by Breakfast Rotary, and the school district committed to maintaining the program into the future. With the monies, over 200 titles of books were purchased, with six copies of each title, for a total of over 1,200 new books for the program.

"This was a wonderful opportunity for Breakfast Rotary to hopefully make an educational impact in the lives of more than 300 students in the Waubun-Ogema district now and into the future." says Rotarian Mike Stearns, who helped write the grant. "Thanks to people like Mary, who recognized a significant need, Andy, who took it on as a main goal of our club, and thanks to a supportive club like ours, we did something pretty cool."