When I attended an Augustine Literacy Program information session, I really did not know what to expect. Who were the people associated with the program and what were they like? I immediately felt a sense of belonging and more importantly, a sense of knowing, upon meeting and listening to Alison Houser introduce the literacy program. Alison delivered the Augustine mission with such ease, captivating all of us hopefuls. Along with her confidence and ease in conveying the program details and requirements came true conviction. I could could feel how important this program is to her and it then became really important to me. I quickly felt a sense of urgency to join the Augustine family of tutors. I signed up on the spot. I completed my two week training last week with Alison leading most sessions. I truly enjoyed Alison’s teaching and guidance along the way. She has a genuineness that shines through, the type of person who you want to be around. Alison is one of those people you meet who gives you no other choice than to love her. In fact, that pretty much describes the Augustine family. Full of love and inspiration, with Alison as their leader. CSP readers, I introduce you Alison Houser!
Smarty Mom: Alison Houser
Mom of: Jack, 13yrs, and Molly, 9 yrs
Married to: Joel (Lindsey) Houser, 17 yrs
Years in Charlotte: we moved here in 2000
‘hood: The Preserve at Belingrath
Hometown: Fairfax, Va
Occupation: Executive Director of the Augustine Literacy Project®-Charlotte (education non-profit)
Alma Mater: University of Virginia (Wahoowa!)
You have been very involved with the Augustine Literacy Project here in Charlotte. What was your inspiration for joining the cause to help kids become better readers? How do the reading levels of our students impact our community?
When I was staying home with my children, I began volunteering in a classroom at Sedgefield Elementary (a Title I, high poverty school) and learned about the Augustine Project. I had been working with a group of 2nd graders and, while I loved my time with the children, I doubted that my assistance with schoolwork was making a long-term difference academically. Hearing about the training provided by the Augustine Literacy Project made me eager to gain the skills and resources needed to help a child learn to read. Teaching a child to read opens the doors to success in all subjects. It changes the trajectory of that child’s life. Not to mention it is fun and a wonderful escape! Some of my best memories with my own children involve reading great books together.
When the previous director of ALP-Charlotte announced her retirement a few years ago, I knew I had to apply. I saw ALP as a hidden gem in Charlotte and wanted to help this non-profit grow to reach more children in need. I’m excited to say that we have doubled our number of tutors in the past two years and will serve around 100 struggling readers in 18 schools this year.
Literacy rates of our students impact our community in significant ways. Third graders who lack proficiency in reading are 4 times more likely to become high school dropouts. The Annie E. Casey Foundation reports that every student who does not complete high school costs our society an estimated $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity. Dropouts are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than high school graduates. Incarceration costs NC nearly $30,000 annually per inmate. On the other hand, 96% of proficient 3rd grade readers graduate from high school.
Many CSP readers will want to know how they too can help students in our community with their literacy struggles. How can they join the Augustine program or find out more information?
Check out our website: http://augustine.st-peters.org/ for information about our program and to find dates for training sessions. We offer intensive training and ongoing support and our tutors make quite a commitment. They complete 42 hours of training and provide a minimum of 60 sessions of free one-on-one tutoring to a low-income 1st or 2nd grader who is significantly behind in reading. Tutors meet with their students twice each week for about 45 minutes each time. Students develop critical literacy skills and benefit from the relationship with a caring adult. Our motto is: “Tutor One Child…Change Two Lives.”
When you were in school, where did you picture yourself career wise?
I went to graduate school (University of Virginia, Masters in Social Foundations of Education) with the intention of someday becoming a Dean of Students at a traditional four-year university. I enjoyed my years working in higher education but working with the tutors, staff and students of the Augustine Literacy Project is the most fulfilling and inspiring job I’ve had.
How has the Augustine program changed you as an individual and as a mother?
Serving as director of ALP-Charlotte has pushed me beyond my comfort zone professionally (public speaking and fundraising!) and allowed me to develop new skills and new relationships with some amazing people in Charlotte. Serving as an ALP tutor was an enlightening experience- before taking the training I never realized what a complex skill reading is!
As a mom, I am busier than ever…. I have to admit, we order out more often now. But, hopefully I am setting a good example for my children because they see me working for a cause that I deeply believe in.
My favorite book growing up was Charlotte’s Web and everything by Judy Blume. Now, I don’t have a favorite book…there are too many good ones! I love my book club – discussing books (and life) with girlfriends over dinner and wine is a great way to spend an evening!
What is your ideal way to spend quality time with your family?
We enjoy our family vacations- sometimes getting away is the best opportunity to let go of obligations and just have fun together.
Any tips for parenting a middle schooler?
I could use some tips myself! Perhaps…maintain a sense of humor and have a thick skin. Also remember they still want to be your little boy/girl even when they are trying to act like adults.
What fall activities are you looking forward to?
I love when the weather turns cool and the leaves start to change. I look forward to baking and eating anything with pumpkin.
What meal do you cook that never results in any leftovers?
How can others support ALP?
Become a tutor, refer a friend who will become a tutor, or donate. Visit the Augustine website to learn more. Please help us spread the word and “Like” our Facebook page. Thank you for your support!