Five questions with Christene Worley, founder of literacy program
Christene Worley is executive director of PCAT Family Literacy, a nonprofit tutoring and mentoring program that is part of an overall “Neighborhood of Promise” Initiative in Sulphur Springs. The initiative was created by the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA as a coalition of civic leaders, school officials, and nonprofit groups such as Parents & Children Advancing Together (PCAT) and the United Way of Tampa Bay.
Q: What is PCAT?
Answer: PCAT Family Literacy is an after-school literacy program for kindergarten children enrolled at Sulphur Springs Elementary School who have been identified by their teachers as performing below a desired reading level and display low academic achievement. The program is under the umbrella agency PCAT (Parents and Children Advance Together) Literacy Ministries, a (not-for-profit) faith-based organization. Our students receive individualized, one-on-one tutoring instruction by volunteer university students who also act as mentors.
Q: Why did you decide to create your ministry?
Answer: Actually the decision was made for me. In 2002, children from the Sulphur Springs community were enrolled in Vacation Bible School at my former church. I noticed that many fourth and fifth grade students had problems reading. Finding that unacceptable, I knew I needed to help these children if they were to achieve success in school.
I left my marketing career and sought out assistance from the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County. With their financial help and guidance, the PCAT Family Literacy program began in 2003.
Q: Why did you choose to base your program in Sulphur Springs?
Answer: Since the children needing help with reading lived in Sulphur Springs and attended Sulphur Springs Elementary School an afterschool program needed to be close to the school.
The Sulphur Springs community is recognized as one of the most socially and economically depressed areas in Hillsborough County, with 43 percent of the population living in poverty, as compared to 13 percent countywide. Educators have found there is a strong correlation between a student’s educational achievement and his socioeconomic background. Statistics show that a child from a disadvantaged background has traditionally fallen behind the middle-class student at the rate of three months for every school year.
Q: Why do you emphasize family literacy?
Answer: The purpose of PCAT is to instill literacy as a value with emphasis on breaking the intergenerational cycle of non-readers in Sulphur Springs and to promote a holistic approach to the family. Parents are encouraged to attend GED classes, as over 24 percent of adults in Sulphur Springs lack a high school diploma.
Q: Do you have a favorite children’s book or author?
Answer: Yes. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? The story uses rhyme and rhythm to teach young children to read. The author is Bill Martin Jr.