I Can Read Program (ICR)

ICR is a local, volunteer program [501(c)3] that was founded in 1998 as a community service of the 1948 graduating class of Attucks High School, a segregated school that existed in Carbondale IL until 1964. It provides a vital community-wide, after-school program for 30 children annually, at no cost to the families. It is supported by a variety of reliable and generous donors and serviced by a cadre of highly qualified, dependable, and engaged community and college student volunteers, supported by an outstanding mix of former and current parents. Students of ICR are of diverse backgrounds and abilities, predominantly of African-American heritage – the same group whose school achievement has shown comparatively depressed test performance. Standardized test results still differentiate African American students nationally and statewide, but particularly in Carbondale. University students of similar demographics are nationally known to be underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM subjects and careers). Therefore, we want our programming to, not only teach reading from books, but to also boost students’ skills in the use of electronic media, and provide experiential exposure to college and university departmental and program offerings.

“I Can Read” judges its quality, not simply by standards, but also by the partners and collaborators it continues to hold, as well as by the success of the children, using reading score comparisons. It has been able to continue its high-quality program largely through imposing heavy loads on a few volunteers and by having productive, in-kind partnerships and collaborations with a wide range of community entities. However, it is evident that our usual funding sources are having difficulty continuing at their previous levels of assistance. It is our hope to be able to offer an after-school program during the school year as long as the needs and interest of the children and their families show great demand. For such a program, our board would like to pay an academically credentialed director a competitive salary to assist our very capable and energetic, 88-year-old founding director. And for the summer, we would cherish the opportunity to offer 30-40 students an academic summer program that will shield them from loss of the previous year’s reading gains and, at the same time, provide them with enrichment experiences to help them to be better prepared for future life opportunities. This is a very important program in this community and the unspoken, but clearly visible links are found in the fact that the program’s most capable, founding director is Mrs. Margaret J. Nesbitt, a “bluebird” graduate of Attucks High School class of 1948 – a segregated school in Carbondale IL.