Faces of Success: Gabriel Elias
Many of us were fortunate enough to have an educator that made a tremendous difference in our lives. For 5-year-old Gabriel Elias, that educator is Lisa Montgomery, Ed.D. at Napier Elementary School.
“Gabriel is one of my biggest success stories,” said Montgomery. “He is a shining example of why I teach.”
Montgomery recognized Gabriel’s potential when he first joined her United Way Read to Succeed classroom last fall. The key to helping Gabriel reach his potential was utilizing program resources so he could overcome language barriers.
“He came into United Way’s Read to Succeed program not knowing English,” said Montgomery. “The resources we provided him through the Read to Succeed program helped him develop language skills and transformed him into an outgoing child.”
Since 2004, United Way’s Read to Succeed program has helped more than 12,000 Nashville children overcome different academic barriers. Read to Succeed is a comprehensive early literacy program that provides at-risk children with the basic reading readiness skills to prepare them for future educational success. The program currently has a 96 percent success rate in kindergarten preparedness. It utilizes resources like highly qualified instructional coaches, research-based curricula, parental engagement and lending libraries to strengthen the educational foundations of students enrolled in the program.
Before he enrolled last fall, Gabriel only recognized two uppercase letters. Now, he knows 26 uppercase letters, recognizes 20 letter sounds and can write his first name. These newly acquired skills are also allowing Gabriel’s family to overcome cultural barriers in their new community.
“His mother is still learning the English language, but he helps her communicate by interpreting for her,” said Montgomery. “He is also assisting his younger brother with English and helping him adapt to a new school. Gabriel’s father is more engaged with his son’s educational development. Gabriel’s success has motivated him to improve his language skills.”
Parental engagement is critical to the success of students enrolled in the program. Without it, Montgomery believes a child will never fully reach their academic potential. Montgomery knows this program component has influenced Gabriel to become more involved in her classroom.
“If Gabriel sees someone struggling with a particular skill, he is willing to share his knowledge with them. That’s priceless because his involvement with his classmates influences them to follow his example.”
Montgomery expects Gabriel to lead by example well beyond his years in the Read to Succeed program.
“I believe Gabriel will receive scholarships and attend college. He’ll complete his degree; I also think he’ll consider graduate school. He will also make his future community a better place to live, and his story will inspire others from similar backgrounds to improve their lives through education.”
Gabriel’s possibilities are endless, thanks to the combination of educators like Montgomery and United Way’s Read to Succeed program. What a difference both have already made in his life. Imagine how Gabriel’s story will encourage others to follow his lead in the future.