The Columns

A Day in the Life: Kayla Sylvester ’17 Day in the Life, Johnson Opportunity Grant Winner, REACH, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

— by on September 5th, 2016

Kayla Sylvester '17

“My latest project at REACH has been curriculum development for a workplace literacy program.”

REACH is Sioux Falls, South Dakota’s local literacy council. The organization organizes adult literacy, workplace and life skills tutoring. They assess learners and provide our trained tutors with all the resources they need to be successful with their learners. To help fund the programming costs, REACH runs a fantastic used books store. The store even grants free children’s books to teachers and local organizations with a need, and gives them away to kids in the store. It has a real focus on making literacy and books accessible to everyone.

No day at REACH is exactly the same. One day I will be calling and emailing our volunteer tutor staff to log their hours and provide updates, and the next I will spend the entire day out in the community passing out literature and explaining our mission. Every day I meet new and interesting people, whether it’s new learners (usually low-income, refugee, or immigrant populations), new tutors, retired educators or other nonprofit organizers, because REACH works closely with all the other nonprofits in the area to connect with learners and resources.

Every Wednesday I help at the store, REACH a Reader. There we organize thousands of books for resale and sell them for either $1 or $2. My main focus at the store is our literacy grant program. After getting a request from a local teacher or organization explaining their needs, I sort through our thousands of children’s books and put together boxes based on their reading and interest levels. At the store there is a solid team of volunteers that make the store possible and make the days there fun and interesting.

My latest project at REACH has been curriculum development for a workplace literacy program. REACH is working with Grand Prairie Foods, a food production plant, to provide workplace tutoring to about ten employees for nine months. My role has been to organize tutors for the program and put together curriculum for the nine-month program. I began by looking at what the company wanted their employees to learn and incorporating literacy into it. First, I came up with a scope and sequence for the nine-month program. Then I looked through all of our tutoring materials and pulled relevant materials. After doing that, I got all of the tutors working on the program together and we developed a plan of action. My last step was lesson planning. I developed the first four weeks of lesson plans and materials for the program. This whole process gave me a huge insight into curriculum development and planning, which is great skill for a future educator. I was able to attend the first session and fill in for a tutor, and it was so nice to see all the excited learners.

All in all, this eight-week internship has taught me so much. I’ve gained marketing sales through advertising the book sales; I worked on contacting media, developing and distributing flyers, and developing promotional ideas. I’ve gained skills in volunteer management through the tutors and the bookstore. I’ve also gained skills in curriculum planning and teaching. I really owe this experience to my supervisor, Paige Carda, the executive director of REACH, because she does it all. She is the only full-time staff for REACH. She was in between program assistants when I came in. On top of everything I have been doing, she deals with the board, community relations, and most importantly, grant writing. Out of everything I’ve done, I have learned the most from her, especially when it comes to dedication.