Elon University’s ‘It Takes a Village’ project receives $1 million grant

The funding from Oak Foundation will support a growing program that benefits struggling young readers in Alamance County.

Elon students work with local pre-K children on reading skills during The Village Project’s evening program, Little Village. The children and their parents work in groups with Elon students.

Elon University’s “It Takes a Village” project, a literacy program that assists students who struggle with reading, has received a five-year grant from Oak Foundation totaling $1,015,100. The grant is the largest in the program’s history and supports a recent expansion of the program to provide after-school tutoring at five Alamance-Burlington School System schools.

“This generous support from Oak Foundation will have an immediate impact on the lives of hundreds of children in our community, setting them on the path to success,” said Elon University President Leo M. Lambert. “Helping children learn to read is the single most important factor in their early education. This funding provides critical support for a program that is making a huge difference in our community.”

The “It Takes a Village” project uses a collaborative approach to address reading difficulties faced by many students. That collaboration involves the active participation of Elon’s School of Education, Elon students, faculty and staff, in-service teachers, various community partners and most important, parents and other family members. Launched in 2008, the Village Project began as an after-school reading/tutoring project designed to connect Elon’s School of Education students with youngsters who find reading daunting. In the beginning, tutoring sessions took place on Elon’s campus. The program later moved to May Memorial Library in downtown Burlington, N.C., then to the Burlington School campus, and last February, the program began providing services at Newlin, Haw River, Eastlawn and Andrews elementary schools and Graham Middle School.

Over the years, the Elon project has added additional learning opportunities, including Science in the Village, Music in the Village, and Summer in the Village. The Village Project has also worked with Alamance Community College to support parents and families associated with the project who wish to improve their English language skills. This is the third grant Oak Foundation has made to Elon University, supporting the Village Project’s early development and the replication of the Village model nationally at three other U.S. colleges and internationally in Jamaica.

“We are happy to support “It Takes a Village” Project at Elon University, with its emphasis on student literacy development, parental engagement and community partnership,” said Millie Brobston, Oak Foundation’s programme officer for special interest grants.

Jean Rattigan-Rohr is Elon University’s executive director of community partnerships and director of the Center for Access and Success and founder of the Village Project.

“With this Oak Foundation grant, we will continue to build strong community partnerships and serve even more students,” said Village Project founder and director Jean Rattigan-Rohr, who serves as Elon’s executive director of community partnerships and director of the university’s Center for Access and Success. “I can’t wait to see how the Village continues to deepen and broaden its services with this support. We have aggressive goals to increase reading proficiency for children and expand parents’ understanding of ways to support their children’s academic development and also increase their own English language skills.”

Established in 1983, Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. With offices in Europe, Africa, India and North America, the foundation has made more than 3,600 grants to non-profit organizations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.