Our Program for Tuesday, April 5th was Guest Speaker Mari Pokolowski from the East Side Learning Center and was introduced by Don Draayer.  He explained that her charity would be the recipient of 700 of the 2,000 books that will be collected and sorted in May by our Club. 
Mari Pokomowski is the Executive Director of the East Side Learning Center in St. Paul.  She has 7 sons and was an English Teacher and now running her nonprofit while working on her Master’s Degree in Education and Divinity focused on family dynamics.  Mari noted that learning center came about through the East Side Business Community and recognized what was happening in the achievement and education of children in their community and took action.  The East Side Leaning Center is a product of their 20 year’s effort to focus on the importance of children’s education.  The center is non-secular but holds on to the principals of those founding Catholic Sisters.  The structure of the East Side Learning Center (ESLC) is volunteers mostly from AARP and Mari cord that are whites and working with children of color.  These volunteers work to tutor and mentor these children and their parents and especially males in those children’s lives that may be their fathers or relatives, friends and/or neighbors.  Their purpose is to make a difference in children’s literacy both in their community and the state.                                                                                       
The volunteers tutor children four times a week for 30 minute sessions.  Language acquisition and reading skill development is specifically addressed for each child and each child is also diagnostically evaluated.  Seven of the staff are reading specialists working with children, volunteers and parents.  Mari emphasizes the importance of parents, grandparents and neighbors in sitting down and reading books to the children, especially the male members.  So, ESLC is a training community and they understand that poor language acquisition and lack of reading literacy will result in 50/50 chance of those children ending up in prison in the future.  The ESLC targets their efforts to African American men to take these 700 books and read to these children.  Each book has a guide insert of what to do and how to encourage children to read.                                                                                                       
So what’s Rotary’s role in all of this?  Mari thanked the club and President Graber for the $500 donation to the ESLC and noted that individual members can make donations to the East Side Learning Center at East Side Learning Center, PO Box 6703
St. Paul, MN 55106 or online at www//:eastsidelearningcenter.org.  She then invited our Rotarians to become volunteers to mentor and tutor children.  She noted that she would help setup a leaning center in Excelsior if a need exists.  She concluded by challenging us to be part of closing the literacy gap in our community and the state and to work to better understand racism in our own community.                                                                                                                 
In the Q&A she pointed out that the parents and community can do a lot to help schools improve children’s literacy and encouraging parents in this effort is the key to success.  What a fantastic program and day at Rotary!