60 Days of Giving: EDUCATING Children with Federation Supported RJCL

EDUCATING Children with Federation Supported RJCL

By Sandi Fogelson


Thank you to RJCL for the awesome opportunity to mentor a student at Swansboro Elementary School!

When I retired after 14 wonderful years of teaching 4-year-old preschoolers, my neighbor, Claudia Biegler, suggested I look into mentoring a student at Swansboro Elementary through the Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy (RJCL).  I went to the orientation and training and was matched with a sparkling, shy, quiet six-year-old chosen by her teacher. Because of a speech issue, my mentee and I communicated with her through art, educational games, and LOTS of reading – me to her that first year.

It has been so wonderful to see her blossom over four years, gain self-confidence, make friends with her classmates, and learn to read and speak so distinctly. We now take turns reading to each other and we’ve graduated to chapter books, all of which she gets to keep for her very own when we finish them.

While talking to my mentee’s teachers about areas we should work on together, I shared my enthusiasm for art. As a result, I have worked on art projects with the entire classroom for the last three years. I have gone in every two months to do art projects connected with the curriculum’s holiday or special book they’re working on. All of the students ask if I can be their mentor too! (There is such a need if you are interested, please contact RJCL). Working with them on projects is my way of giving them some extra attention as well.

Two of my favorite stories from the classroom…

At the end of first grade, the teacher asked the children to write their favorite activity we had done together and one girl said, “Before I did art with Sandi, I always begged my mom to buy me paper dolls. Now I don’t have to because I know I can make them myself!”

For Mother’s Day, I took black and white photos of every child in the class and brought in all kinds of supplies so they could make custom frames and cards with their pictures for their moms, grandmas and caretakers.  The week after the holiday, I asked how their gifts were received, and one little girl said, “Oh, Sandi, my mom bust out crying! She was so happy …”

So thanks RJCL for this opportunity to bring new experiences to my mentee and her classmates!


About RJCL: The Richmond Jewish Coalition for Literacy was started just over 18 years ago by community members who wanted to share the love of reading and literacy with students in underserved schools. Through the MICAH Initiative, a faith-based mentoring group, RJCL was matched with Swansboro Elementary a Richmond public school in the city's south side. 

RJCL has provided one-on-one mentoring, lunchtime reading groups called Readers Café, field trips to theater, in-school programs and music presentations, and a wealth of volunteer hours in all fields. We have also provided hats, gloves and scarves to the students in the winter and school supplies in the fall.

RJCL is always looking for new volunteers and mentors to help at Swansboro and with our newest endeavor in Henrico County at Laburnum Elementary School.

By making a gift to the 2017 annual campaign you're supporting this program and other educational opportunities in the community. 

To volunteer or for more information, please call Sara Rosenbaum at 804-545-8629 or srosenbaum@jewishrichmond.org.


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