Grantee Spotlight

Start the Adventure in Reading (STAIR) - Annapolis

It is the middle of our fiscal year and we are in full swing at 12 program sites. Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) - Annapolis, Inc.,continues to serve at-risk children through one-on-one reading tutoring, and the generous support of Anne Arundel Women Giving Together’s Momentum Grant has allowed us to serve MORE students and reach MORE geographic areas in our community. We are so grateful for your gift and delight in the opportunity to share the STAIR story!
STAIR-Annapolis proudly graduated 95 confident second-grade readers from our 2018-2019 school-year program. Measurable results, as shared by Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ (AACPS) Literacy Teachers, showed an average increase of 4.3 levels, using the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Reading Assessment scale. Our students went from reading at kindergarten levels to reading on grade level or above by the culmination of the program. What a joy it was to celebrate with these hard-working young readers and their tutors, teachers, families, and special guests!
The summer was spent preparing for another successful year. Meetings with the AACPS Reading Team ensured that our program curriculum continues to align with that of the AACPS methods of teaching accuracy, fluency, and comprehension through phonemic awareness. The Bilingual Outreach Facilitator Team helped us seek effective ways to inspire more reading at home, particularly with our English Language Learners and their families. Student materials were purchased and prepped, and our STAIR libraries and games were refreshed and inventoried. We revamped our tutor training program to simplify material and deliver a more interactive introduction to our dedicated volunteers. The month of September was spent training and retraining all STAIR volunteers. We have a 96% retention rate with more than 250 tutors!
This school year (2019-2020), we welcomed 100+ new students in the STAIR program and opened a new site—the 12th—at Tracey’s Elementary School in South Anne Arundel County. October 1st was the kick-off date, and students and tutors are building relationships and working together through the educator-approved curriculum. Students have been observed as eager and energetic, and tutors are enjoying trying creative strategies to keep them engaged and having fun! We anticipate receiving mid-year reading assessment scores soon, as AACPS has shifted their testing schedule earlier this year. This will help us continue to individualize our on-site support to better serve all students throughout the duration of the program.
STAIR staff working in tandem (new Volunteer Coordinator in September 2018, new Executive Director in January 2019, new Communications Manager in February 2019) have added value to the consistency of the program delivery. Modernization of the STAIR website and regular use of online communications has directly contributed to the success of new volunteer recruitment. Print and digital communications have also been developed and shared so that gaining feedback and testimonials from our volunteers, students' families, and education partners easily allows us to respond and grow. Strategic planning and support of the STAIR Board of Directors enables us to expand and sustain our program for the communities we serve.
We are excited to continue growing as an organization and thank you for providing stability during a time of transition. AAWGT has made an impact that reaches beyond measure. From our staff and volunteers to our students and the community at large, we are inspired and eager to keep up this momentum of success!
With gratitude, Laura Iversen, Executive Director, Start The Adventure In Reading (STAIR) – Annapolis, Inc.
From Barbara Goyette, STAIR tutor at Mills-Parole: "I've been a STAIR volunteer for two years. I have tutored children and adults previously in a variety of volunteer roles. STAIR has a clear mission and wonderful resources for helping a tutor bring success to a child -- a very appealing combination. I love seeing the children at work, watching them try with a tutor what they are reluctant to try in their classrooms. My favorite STAIR moment was when my student was reading on his own to me and knew the word ‘especially’ without any prompting. He just beamed when I complimented him.”

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Education Meeting: The First 1,000 Days of a Child’s Life

February 5, 2020

Keynote Speaker, Dr. Brenda Jones Harden, set the stage for a powerful conversation about the critical needs of an infant, and the long-lasting effects of neglect. Her dynamic presentation before 141 attendees, described research demonstrating that brain growth starts prenatally, with peak development from two months to three years of age. She shared brain PET scans, comparing scans from a baby with a dependable caretaker, who regularly speaks, hugs, and interacts with the baby against the scans for a baby who did not have those benefits. The difference is striking. Neglected children suffer from long-lasting decreases in cognitive, language and social skills for the rest of their lives. Evidence-based interventions for parent and child through private home visits, Early Head Start, Judy Centers, can make a difference—and the earlier the intervention, the more successful. Shockingly, the U.S. lags behind other countries in quality earlychildcare. Tatiana Klein provided statistics from AA County. Tamira Dunn presented the wide range of services provided by the Judy Center program.
Find Dr. Harden’s presentation and more on this important subject here.

AAWGT Events


2019 Grantee Field Trip: Sarah’s House

September 25, 2019

Open since 1987 as a safe haven for women, children, and families who are homeless or abused, Sarah’s House is located on the edge of US Army Fort George G. Meade and consists of eight refurbished Army barracks housing office space, emergency shelter, dining facilities, a day care center, and four apartments where clients can live while obtaining support services.
Executive Director Kathryn Philliben briefed the group on arrival and introduced her staff, all of whom have been at Sarah’s House for at least 12 years. Kathryn explained that incoming clients are initially placed in emergency shelter so that case managers, program assistants, and training staff can identify the type of assistance needed. Each individual or family is given their own room with a door that locks, and as many clients have not experienced such security and safety in the past they are thrilled to have some privacy. Residents’ meals are donated by churches, volunteer organizations and businesses. Stays in the emergency shelter are limited to 90 days after which clients move either to one of the apartments at Sarah’s House or somewhere in the county, where they are given financial help with rent for up to a year.
Kelly Anderson, Manager of Client Services, explained how the staff is organized to help clients with multiple issues. Case managers specialize in one area, making them more efficient in obtaining assistance, whether with legal matters, mental and behavioral health issues or employment and financial needs. Staff seeks to listen and help solve problems while also instilling self-reliance. Regarding employment, Eileen Meagher, Manager of Housing and Employment Services, explained her staff seeks first to identify client interests, as the more interested in the job being pursued, the more likely the client is to stay with the program. AAWGT grant funds were used in the past year to fund many of these training and certification classes.
Sarah’s House is always open to volunteer assistance and can use donations of twin bedding, both new and gently used. Pillows must be new. If you are interested in helping, please contact them at


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AAWGT is a fund of the Community Foundation of Anne Arundel County
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