G.R.O.W. – Making a Difference at Brewster Elementary School

I am Erica Coopwood, and as the 2014-2015 Chair of G.R.O.W. Brewster Pre-K / Kindergarten Reading Readiness, I want to offer our readers a glimpse of the rewarding work that the Junior League of Memphis is doing with its newest G.R.O.W. (Giving Reading Opportunities and Wellness) program at William H. Brewster Elementary School.

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Proud Brewster students and their Valentine craft created with G.R.O.W. volunteers

Brewster Elementary School is located at Collins and Sam Cooper Blvd. Every other Tuesday for two hours, JLM volunteers work directly with pre-kindergartners and kindergarteners by reading a book, hosting a craft activity and helping them complete an educational activity worksheet that correlates with their weekly curriculum. Each year before school begins, we meet with the teachers and principal, Dr. Angela Askew, to “map out” our year. Our goal is to make sure that each book, craft, and education worksheet that we choose follows the teachers’ curricula.

JLM Member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, Mandy Lamey interacting with Brewster students.

JLM member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, Mandy Lamey interacting with Brewster students.

As soon as we enter the classroom hallway, the kids catch a glimpse of their “G.R.O.W. Friends,” and we get many hugs, but only one question: “Are you coming in my room today, G.R.O.W. Friend?” (For the longest time, we all thought the kids were calling us their Girlfriends because they say it so quickly!) Being able to spend one-on-one time with the kids gives the kids time to read cool books, create imaginative crafts and complete worksheets that are right on target with what they are learning. The teachers benefit from our presence by having a staff of excellent women (might I say!) who are reinforcing their weekly lesson curricula in a different format. And for the volunteers, there is simply nothing more satisfying than being able to give your time and talents to children who need it! Whether it’s helping a child “get” what’s being taught in the classroom, or being able to comfort a child whose day didn’t start out so well—the volunteers benefit from the immediate gratification of being able to see the difference they make.


JLM member and G.R.O.W. volunteer, LaTina Thomas working with students on their activity page

Brewster also has many community partners who are ready to step in when they see a need. Last Fall, two of JLM’s provisional members who were completing their community shifts noticed that many of the kids were wearing school shirts that looked as if they’d been worn over and over. So they offered to wash the kids’ clothing!  They were adamant about it, too. They saw a need, and immediately offered a solution. I shared this concern with my husband, President and CEO for Regional One Health, and Regional One Health, along with many Brewster lovers, gifted each Pre-K and Kindergarten student with a new, embroidered long sleeve school uniform shirt from Agape North for Christmas. The teachers and children were overjoyed and so appreciative of this, but for us as Junior Leaguers, it was a no-brainer: the need was there and we found a way to meet that need. That’s who we are and what we do!


G.R.O.W. volunteers and Brewster students showing off their new shirts

JLM members have made great strides in solidifying G.R.O.W. as a top-notch, award-winning volunteer program in Memphis. Our members have had the privilege of impacting the lives of our City’s most vulnerable, and with our expansion to Brewster Elementary, we have certainly made a positive impact on many lives in this community. What’s more, we have a team of administrators and teachers at Brewster who are excited about JLM’s presence. We are into our second year at Brewster, and we look forward to continuing G.R.O.W.’s tradition of excellence with the children of William H. Brewster Elementary School. Go Brewster!

Please “like” us on Facebook to stay up to date on what’s happening with G.R.O.W.   If you’d like to learn more about how to become a member of the JLM and join us in making a difference in our community, please visit our website and email Jen Larkin at jen.l.larkin@gmail.com to find out more.

Erica Coopwood
2014-2015 Chair
G.R.O.W. Brewster Pre-K / Kindergarten Reading Readiness