Faces of Success: LaKiyra Holt
American poet Robert Frost once composed a work titled, “The Road Not Taken.” In this lyric he wrote, “Two roads diverged in the woods; I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Tara Holt could have taken any different number of roads as she looked for opportunities to strengthen her daughter’s educational foundation. A pivotal moment occurred at Fannie Battle Day Home for Children in 2004. It helped Holt choose an educational road less traveled that made all the difference.
“We didn’t know much about the Read to Succeed program when it first started,” Holt said. “I somewhat recall going over the program curriculum with LaKiyra’s teacher.”
United Way’s Read to Succeed program is a comprehensive early literacy program that provides at-risk children with the basic reading readiness skills to prepare them for future educational success. When the program was launched in 2004, only 33 percent of 5-year-olds in the test group of students were prepared for kindergarten. Education was never pushed in Tara’s home during her childhood, so she took an active role in LaKiyra’s educational development. The impact of that decision was remarkable.
“I remember when she read her first words,” said Holt. “We were at the store and LaKiyra said to me, ‘That sign says boo!’ I was like, ‘What?’ She really could read and wasn’t just looking at pictures in books; I was extremely proud.”
A student who can’t read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently in third grade. LaKiyra immediately excelled as she entered kindergarten. That success continued throughout elementary school and into middle school, thanks to her enrollment in the Read to Succeed program.
“When she was in fourth grade, LaKiyra achieved the highest average on her language proficiency exam, as well as the highest average on her reading proficiency exam,” Holt said. “She was in the honors program, received the highest award at the school, and even began mentoring other kids in her classroom. She also took two high school courses before she even graduated middle school.”
LaKiyra’s educational success and overall growth is one of the many success stories to emerge from a program that now enjoys a 97 percent success rate in kindergarten preparedness. The combination of highly qualified instructional coaches, research-based curricula, parental engagement and lending libraries are all components that make the Read to Succeed program unlike any other of its kind.
“I wanted to make sure that LaKiyra had a strong foundation and Read to Succeed built that foundation,” said Holt. “I dropped out of school for no reason and decided to go back after I saw the difference Read to Succeed made in her education.”
LaKiyra is now in 10th grade at East Magnet School and consistently maintains a near 4.0 GPA. Her mother credits United Way Read to Succeed for building LaKiyra’s early foundation for her educational success and is appreciative that the program has also helped LaKiyra prepare for college.