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By Marissa Garcia, Santa Barbara Education Foundation

Students with reading differences need early intervention to continue their academic success.

Two years ago, the Santa Barbara Unified School District addressed these concerns by implementing a pilot program at Harding Elementary School. The program, the Literacy Project, started out by serving only 28 students and since then has expanded into two more schools and hopes to make its way into two more. 

“Their brains work in a different way and we just need a different approach,” said Executive Director Margie Yahyavi. 

At the Santa Barbara Education Foundation’s Hope Awards on Thursday, April 25, Yahyavi administered a call to action asking attendees to help the foundation get students who show characteristics of dyslexia the support they need.

Hope Awards serves as an opportunity to applaud the work that has been done for local students and draws the community’s attention to what still needs to be done. This year we continued with our focus to invest in students with dyslexia by concentrating on improvements in literacy.

Those in attendance seemed to be onboard as the foundation was able to collect over $42,000 in a paddle raise. Guests were so eager to give back that the lowest bidding of $50 shot back up to $100 as bidders battled it out to be the last contributor.

Every year at Hope, we honor local champions who continue to help improve public education. This year’s honorees were former Santa Barbara Unified School District Board of Education member, Kate Parker and philanthropist and entrepreneur, Paul Orfalea.

Each honoree accepted their award with a speech. Orfalea touched on his experience with dyslexia and how that affected his love for school and learning. Parker closed out the event with a thankful account of her work and the people who have helped her along the way.

“We are all like our students: we keep learning, as much from our stumbles as our successes,” said Parker. “So thanks to each and every one of you — the Hope Award is as much about you as about me.”