AmeriCorps in Action

Site Spotlight: Wilson Elementary, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Reading Corps works to ensure all students can read and succeed, including those who may face educational challenges due to complex social systems. Wilson Elementary in Kenosha, Wisconsin is one site where our reading tutoring has been making an incredible impact to ensure all students get the tools they need.

Wilson Elementary School joined Wisconsin Reading Corps in 2021. With 130 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade grade students, it is the smallest school in the Kenosha Unified School District. “It’s wonderful to be in a small school,” Rhonda says “I wanted to serve in a very small school where I could know every parent and every child.” 

Given the challenges and stresses students experienced during the pandemic, Rhonda notes tutors are more important than ever. “It doesn’t matter what socioeconomic group they come from, kids want attention from positive adults, especially after COVID and the effects of being home,” says Rhonda. “Some kids were being monitored by older brothers or sisters because their parents had to work and put food on the table. Some might have been home alone, and some might have been in overcrowded daycares.” 

Students with identities like those represented at Wilson already face educational disparities due to institutionalized racism, and the pandemic only compounded the issue.

When Rhonda moved to Kenosha five years ago, only 12% of students at Wilson were reading at grade level. “We know what that means as far as dropout rates, chances of spending time incarcerated,” she adds.

About Wilson Elementary

Rhonda Lopez, Principal
  • Majority of students identify as Black, Hispanic, or biracial
  • About 20% of Hispanic students are English Language Learners
  • 90% of students participate in free and reduced lunch program

“If we don’t teach every kid to read by the time they leave Wilson, we have failed.” 

Even with a passionate and dedicated team of educators, the school needed more help to support students’ literacy skills. “I needed people. My kids needed folks who would sit beside them one on one,” she says. 

That’s where Reading Corps came in. Rhonda got connected to the program through a local nonprofit. After learning the Reading Corps could provide the people she needed at no cost, she was eager to get started.  

Today, Wilson Elementary has three reading tutors. With their help, every student at the school gets one-on-one reading instruction. “We are going to teach every child to read, and they’re going to read well, and that is going to give them access to the rest of the world,” says Rhonda. “Reading Corps has been a huge part of that. Literacy is freedom. It’s the only way that people can really decide what kind of life they want to live.” 

Wilson Elementary Featured on Kenosha Podcast

Hear more about Wilson from Principal Rhonda Lopez in her educational conversation on the “Building Out Future” podcast.

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