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School gets grant to fund literacy program

Overjoyed may be an understatement for how Terry Pelick felt when she got the news that Callaway Elementary School –– where she works as the media specialist –– had been awarded a $3,500 Dollar General Literacy Foundation Back to School Grant.

“I’m very, very thankful, and appreciate Dollar General,” said Pelick. “I feel very blessed.”

The foundation’s Back to School grants assist libraries, or media centers, in meeting some of the economic challenges they face in the following areas: Implementing or expanding new or existing literacy programs; purchasing new technology or equipment to support literacy initiatives; and purchasing books, materials, and software for literacy programs.

Pelick said the funds will be used to purchase new books, and replace discarded books. “I plan to purchase fiction, nonfiction books and Accelerated Reader quizzes with this money. I [also] plan to purchase books that have copyright dates within the past 2-3 years, in order to update our collection.”

To show her gratitude for the funding provided to her school’s library by the foundation, Pelick said she will designate a specific area in the library as a tribute to Dollar General.

“I plan to have a book cart again this year with a sign that says, ‘Thank you Dollar General,’ to house the majority of these books for a large part of the year,” said Pelick. “This way, the students can realize what a generous gift we received from Dollar General.”

“The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support Callaway Elementary’s literacy initiatives,” said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and CEO. “They are preparing students for a bright future by teaching them to read and instilling in them a love of learning.”

Emily Wiess, with Dollar General’s cooperate office, said the money that supports the grant program comes from customers who donate their extra change –– while shopping –– to the Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

“Each store has a collection box placed at the registers,” she said. “That money is then donated to an organization within the store’s market area, [that has] a literacy program or looking to implement a literacy program.”

Callaway Elementary, she said, is the only school in Clayton County to receive funding. In fact–– as she recalled –– Callaway was the only school in the district that applied for the grant funds.

Marcus Fuller, principal at Callaway, said he believes the reason a lot of schools do not apply for grants, such as the Dollar General grant, is because most schools have the perception that they will not be able to get, or qualify for, funding.

“I met someone in the county whose job is to find grants the district can apply for, and I was told that our school [alone] qualifies for about 40 different grants,” said Fuller.

Dollar General’s Wiess said a needs-assessment is done by grant reviewers, after an application is submitted. “There are a number of things we look at,” she said. “The grant is based on the need in the community, details of the literacy program, and what will be the outcome of the program.” Based on the information submitted on behalf of Callaway Elementary, she added, there was definitely a need.

Callaway’s Pelick said the recent grant marks the second year the school has received funding from the foundation. “Last year, the school’s library was awarded $4,000 and was able to purchase 206 books and 206 Accelerated Reader (AR) quizzes, “she said.

The Accelerated Reader (AR) is a reading software program, she explained, that helps determine a student’s reading level. Students read a book, then take a test that matches the book they read.

Fuller, who jovially referred to his students as his “babies,” said that, to help boost student interest in the AR program, the school started the “20-point Club.” “The club is for all students who like to read,” said Fuller. “For each AR quiz a student takes, they can accumulate points to reach 20.” He added that students who maintain an 80-percent average on the AR quizzes, are awarded prizes.

To fund the incentives for the AR program, Fuller said he purchases the prizes with his own money. “These are my babies,” he said. “I push this program because students perform better academically.” He also credited the AR program as being one of the key components for Callaway Elementary making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for nine years in a row.

For more information about Dollar General Literacy Foundation grants, visit