Experience Making a Difference

Experience Making a Difference

IVC Denver Member Profile: Molly Smolen

by | Feb 17, 2023

St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy’s vision is for all of our students to go to college and get to heaven.

IVC Denver corps member Molly Smolen at St. Rose of Lima School

This small poster greets everyone who enters St. Rose of Lima Catholic Academy. St. Rose is a pre-K through eighth-grade school serving 26 zip codes throughout the Denver metro and beyond for over 60 years. There are 224 students, some of whom are immigrants and/or first-generation Americans. Ninety-five percent or more are receiving tuition assistance from 5 different non-profits.

At the heart of our core values is the belief that every member of our crew is a learner, and no matter how young or old you are or how much education you might have, we all have much more to learn. Learning allows our minds and souls to be set free to discover what is true, beautiful, and good in the world.

When I began my placement at St. Rose in 2021, I had the good fortune to join a number of women who have been providing literacy support to students for many years. Our purpose is to spend time – Monday through Thursday – one-on-one with approximately 30 students – kindergarten through 5th grade – who need additional instruction with reading in order to bring them up to the level corresponding to their grade. A few of the students are learning English as well as the intricacies of reading the printed word.

Over the time I have been there, I have become familiar with each reader. All of them are gracious and eager to spend the time we have together in the school library to increase their reading skills. I value the chance to talk with them if they have questions about the book or if they want to share a personal experience. Sometimes the “experience sharing” relates to the book, and sometimes, it is just a need to talk.

This well-designed program, along with the guidance of the classroom teacher and intervention specialist, monitors their advancement. Each student is very aware of their goals and checks their progress regularly. It is a joy to watch them move from one level to the next. Learning to read is vital for success at all levels of life and, hopefully, accomplishes the goals in the statement above. In addition to reading the book and passing the “test,” we want the children to learn to love reading for reading’s sake and continue to find fascination locked in each book they read. We want to model that enthusiasm and make reading a life skill.

After I had been there only a few days last year, I had one first-grade student who took time to look around the library slowly and then ask me, “Did you write all these books?” I wanted to take credit for that, but I explained to her there are thousands of smart, clever, funny people who love for children to read. They create these books so all children will love to read and discover new things with each book.

The main purpose for my placement is the reading support; however, part of what we do is keep the library in order, read to the early elementary children, and manage the check-in/checkout process keeping track of the thousands of books housed in this library. This placement has been a positive experience all around because of the other women who do this, the school staff, and especially the students.
~ Molly Smolen, IVC Service Corps Member since 2017