January: Brette Machiorlette
Growing up with a younger brother who struggled with dyslexia, Brette recognized from a young age that literacy is not something to be taken for granted. Knowing just how important literacy is for success, it broke her heart to know that others in her community often lacked the resources and support to make reading a part of their lives.
In 2009, Brette became more involved in addressing her community's need to improve literacy and created Reading Aces, an afterschool reading program for Houston's at-risk elementary school students. Working with her connections across the Houston tennis community, she arranged for her first sessions to take place with the kids attending a free tennis clinic offered by the Tennis Association. Brette and ten of her friends gathered books and read to the clinic participants (approximately ten 10-12 year old students) on a weekly basis. Recognizing the difference she and her team of volunteers could make, she knew she needed to expand this important effort.
What started off as 10 teens reading to a small group of kids at one location is now a program with over 80 teen volunteers that operate across nine locations throughout the city of Houston serving hundreds of underprivileged kids. These kids often joined Reading Aces thinking reading was not for them- they didn't have regular access to books or the support of a parent at home to read to them and encourage them. Now, so many of these young children not only have a new found enthusiasm for reading, but they have greatly improved their literacy and comprehension skills, giving them a greater chance for success both as students and in life.
Since Brette's first year of college, Reading Aces has opened two new Houston sites and has expanded to their first Austin location. The non-profit group Books Between Kids has partnered up with Reading Aces and has donated over 300 books. Due to this generous donation, Reading Aces was able to award these books to its participants at the end of the year. Reading Aces has also secured a strategic corporate sponsor called Cram Crew, an academic test-prep service, allowing access to new volunteers. This sponsorship has positioned Reading Aces to expand nationwide.
Check out our exclusive interview with Brette here!