Impacting Lives Through Literacy

Urban Impact Foundation has been given the unique opportunity to impact students inside of the school day.

Urban Impact Foundation is a Christian community development organization that has worked with youth and families on the North Side of Pittsburgh for the past 20 years.

By working to meet the needs of the whole person through holistic community outreach, we can bring transformative hope to Pittsburgh one person, one family, one block at a time.

Urban Impact does this through three avenues – athletics, performing arts, and education. Traditionally, many of Urban Impact’s programs happen after school, but over the past 7 years Urban Impact has had the privilege to work with students, kindergarten through 2nd grade, during the school day in Literacy Support. Literacy Support provides students (K-2) with support in reading, writing, and spelling. Students learn to read through 2nd grade, but read to learn in 3rd grade. It is imperative to catch struggling readers early so the learning deficit does not continue to increase at a more rapid pace.

The Literacy Support tutors work with students individually, offering one-on-one time for the children and support for the teachers. However, Literacy Support is so much more than a reading program. It is a safe place where students build meaningful relationships with their tutors, get connected with our outside of school programs to hear the good news of the Gospel, and be impacted holistically – academically, relationally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

Barb Sippel joined the Literacy Support team as a volunteer 6 years ago. Although Barb had experience teaching preschool prior to volunteering, she came not having much knowledge in how to teach literacy to struggling readers. She came, however, with a willing heart. At the end of her first year she saw a great need for a program like Literacy Support and wanted to increase her knowledge on how to effectively teach struggling readers. She voluntarily signed up for a program to become certified in Orton Gillingham. Orton Gillingham is an instructional approach intended to support students who have difficulty with reading, spelling, and writing, often associated with dyslexia. This program typically takes 1 to 2 years to complete. Barb not only exhibited the desire but the endurance to complete this program while still volunteering at Literacy Support. She persevered for the sake of the students with whom she was working.

While Barb’s passion and skill in teaching literacy grew, so did the depth of her relationships with her students. She began tutoring her Literacy Support students after school and in the summer. This allowed her to engage with their families and she quickly became an advocate for them and their child’s education. Two sisters she had been working with throughout the year had been diagnosed with dyslexia and Barb was able to help them enroll into a school that specialized in educating students with dyslexia. Many of her students were also enrolled in Summer Day Camp or other Urban Impact programs where they heard the good news of Jesus Christ! As a result of Barb’s dedication and vision to Urban Impact’s Literacy Support program and to the students served, she has made an everlasting impact on their lives. She has played an integral part in their lives in a very holistic way.

Barb began Literacy Support not knowing what these six years would bring. She did not have the expertise, but she was willing to be used by God. Barb is a great example of how God does not call the equipped but equips the called. Barb continues to be an advocate for the students she works with and is multiplying herself through training other volunteers in Orton Gillingham. God has done a mighty work because of Barb’s willingness.

You may think you are not equipped to do what God is asking you to do but in your obedience He will equip you and do great things through you for His Kingdom (Hebrews 13:21).

If you would like to find out more about Urban Impact Foundation, the programs we offer, or how to get involved, please visit: uifpgh.org


Amanda Wagner, Director of Education, Urban Impact Foundation

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