Periodically, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee honors “Leaders Making a Difference” – members of the club or community who go above and beyond in contributing to the work of the club in our on-going efforts to Make a Difference. At the 2014 Holiday luncheon, the club honored Barbara Velez.
Barbara has been extremely involved with Rotary for the last 8 years, serving tirelessly in several capacities with the Partners in Education committee and in our partner schools. It is her most recent initiative for which we honor Barbara today - the RCM Reading Initiative at Brown Street Academy. In the fall of 2012, under Barbara’s leadership, PIE initiated the program at BSA, which is now in its third year. Barbara marshaled a small army of volunteers – Rotarians and UWM students - to tutor students needing help with reading. The tutors, under the guidance of classroom teachers, work in 12 classrooms during the MPS literacy instruction block running Monday through Friday mornings. Volunteers read with students one-on-one or in small groups.
Students, teachers and parents are extremely grateful for the extra time and attention – and the program is getting results. Barbara compared Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) test scores from Fall to Spring each year to gauge the project’s effectiveness. Comparing MAP scores from Fall and Spring showed improvement in every grade. Barbara has been extremely dedicated to this important, measurable initiative that brings Rotarians into schools to interact with MPS students on a daily basis – a huge effort that would not be possible without her.
For these reasons and more, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee has made Barbara a Paul Harris Fellow +1 and commends her as a Leader Making a Difference.
At the luncheon, Barbara shared a few stories of how Brown Street Academy children have been impacted by Rotary’s efforts in the school - and how her own life has been shaped by the service of others. “If you haven’t had time to share your largesse, taking the time matters,” Barbara said, “Pay it forward, make the time, it will pay huge dividends in the future. I know, because I’ve lived it.”
If you would like to volunteer your time in an RCM Partner School – as little as once a month, or as often as once a day! – contact the Rotary office. As a new academic semester approaches, now is a great time to get involved.