Q&A With January HALO Effect Honoree: Brette Machiorlette
Get ready to feel the power of the HALO Effect!
In November, we asked you to help us spread the HALO do-gooding spirit by nominating inspiring teens whose service Help And Lead Others. As our promise to keep the HALO Effect going all year long, we're highlighting the amazing work of one of these nominees each month. And with the new year, we congratulate our first outstanding honoree. Meet Brette Machiorlette, the founder of Reading Aces!
We caught up with Brette to learn more about her organization and how she's making literacy an achievable goal for at-risk youth. Not only are her words inspiring, but her story reminds us of the exceptional power of reading, teamwork, and compassion. Read her full bio here, and check out our exclusive Q&A below!
Congratulations on your HALO Effect honors! Tell us about your organization, Reading Aces. How did you come up with the idea? And how did you choose the name for it?
I initially began Reading Aces as an IB [International Baccalaureate Program] high school requirement in Houston. As sophomores, we are required to complete a "Personal Project" which can basically be about anything you want to learn or achieve. For my project, I created Reading Aces. An ace describes a master, or champion. In tennis, an "ace" is a winning serve that is untouched by the opponent. It signifies hard work and success — entities we hoped to instill in our elementary participants.
Early education is fundamental to children's success, and unfortunately, many do not grow up in supportive environments or have access to early literacy tools. Whether young or old, seeing children deprived of the access to learning and reading was deeply unsettling. These collective experiences motivated me to grow and expand Reading Aces.
How do the after-school reading sessions work? Do volunteers work with kids in groups? Or is it more of a one-on-one program?
Every week, our volunteers bring giant bags of children's books to our partner sites. Volunteers are paired with 1-3 children and after agreeing upon a book, the small groups settle down and read orally. Volunteers and participants take turns reading aloud, while groups with younger readers are asked to sound out simple, "sight words."
We encourage our volunteers to frequently ask questions to ensure attentiveness and engagement. Ideally, each site hopes to achieve a one-to-one reader-to-volunteer ratio. The beauty of Reading Aces is in its simplicity. Limited training is needed and the magic of an engaging picture book takes both the volunteers and children to far away places.
What do you find most rewarding about mentoring young students?
There is nothing more rewarding than working with children. Their smiles are infectious and their stories are priceless. Our volunteers foster positive relationships that inspire and motivate these children to always do their best. What most do not realize is the lasting impact these children make on the volunteers.
As a HALO Effect honoree, your organization will receive $5,000. How will you use this reward to benefit your efforts?
Through t-shirt sales and generous donations, we have been able to finance books and snacks; however, the $5,000 donation would dramatically impact our potential expansion channels. Without marketing dollars, it is very hard to solicit new sites and expand our reach. I would also love more money for books, so that we can more frequently give our participants books to enhance their home libraries. In addition, with take-home books to read, we can help prevent the infamous "summer-slide."
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a charitable organization of his or her own?
The key to any successful organization is teamwork. Reading Aces would be nothing without the support of volunteers, sponsors, and friends. Do not be afraid to ask for help. With collaboration, camaraderie, and a common purpose driving a group's efforts, the impossible can be achieved. Take advantage of any opportunity to promote your organization, whether that be through social media, school announcements, or conversations among peers and adults. The more people that know your goal means that more people are likely to support it and help it thrive. An African adage perfectly sums it up: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
Do you know any truly inspiring teens who are making an impact like Brette? Nominate them here!