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SALT LAKE CITY — Students at Redwood Elementary in Salt Lake said thanks to their reading tutors with pumpkin pie and whip cream on top.
The students wanted to do something special for their tutors, but they said thank you notes would have been a "boring way" to show appreciation.
"(It is) to thank them for all they do for us," said fourth-grader Damarus Hall. "What we can do to help them is to serve pie, since it's almost Thanksgiving."
Twice a week, several employees walk across the street from Green River Capital to Redwood and tutor students in the Read Today program.
Struggling readers showed great improvement with a little extra attention. The principal, school staff and the AmeriCorps coordinator accompanied the student pie brigade to share in the "thanksgiving."
The teacher also coached students on greeting their tutors and serving them pie.
"Shake hands and look them in the eye," said one teacher.
"Aim the whip cream down," another teacher said.
Employees seemed a little caught off guard with the sweet surprise, but those who take part in the tutoring program are in it for the reward of helping the kids.
"I do it for two kids and it's the highlight of my week," said employee Britta Nelson.
She added that the company has a corporate commitment to community service, and their partnership with neighboring Redwood Elementary just made sense.
"Going over there once, I just fell in love with the kids. It was great!" said tutor Scott Karren.
These sorts of relationships are taking place in a growing number of Utah's 114 Read Today schools. Since the start of the 2013-14 school year, nearly 700 community tutors have signed up to help students in their neighborhood schools.
Last summer, Governor Gary Herbert encouraged Utahns to join the Read Today grassroots effort. He wants 90 percent of Utah students at their reading grade level by the year 2020. Volunteer tutors provide a way to raise reading scores without impacting tight school budgets.
Students serving at Green River Capital said they know reading is important, and they understand these volunteers are offering their time and help. One by one the kids shook hands, squirted whip cream and smiled when they had enough pie leftover to serve themselves.