Memphis (1024x845)Project Transformation Tennessee has expanded this summer to Memphis, placing college-age students in ministry in low-income neighborhoods to help children become better readers and young adults become better leaders.

The nonprofit organization launched two Memphis program sites June 6 to provide enriching activities for 140 children in grades 1-6, including daily one-on-one reading. The programs are run by 17 young adult interns who are investing their summers to help stem “summer slide,” the tendency for students, especially those from low-income families, to fall behind in reading and math over the summer.

“Project Transformation provides a safe space for children to learn about God’s love and to improve their reading skills,” said Lynn McAlilly, a board member for the United Methodist-related organization. “By reading with PT volunteers for 40 minutes each day, these children will have the chance to enter school in the fall at a higher level than they ended the school year in the spring. “

Lagging reading rates are a significant challenge in Memphis public schools. Only 30 percent of third-graders read on grade level in Shelby County Schools, which is the largest school system in Tennessee. The district has set a goal of improving its third-grade reading proficiency by more than 5 percent annually, or 470 students, to reach 90 percent proficiency by the year 2025.

That challenge made Memphis a natural expansion site for Project Transformation Tennessee, which launched in 2012 in Nashville, expanded last year to Murfreesboro, and has built a solid track record of literacy development for children and leadership development for adult adults. Last year in Middle Tennessee, 99 percent of the 460 children participating maintained or improved their reading level, while all 46 interns said they gained skills they’ll use in future education, service or employment.

“Project Transformation provides the space for life-changing experiences as college students explore ministry opportunities and develop as creative leaders for the church and the world,” McAlilly said.

The Memphis interns live on the campus of Christian Brothers University and travel daily to program sites at Centenary United Methodist Church and Longstreet United Methodist Church.

The ministry is made possible through partnerships with the Poplar Foundation, the Bill & Carol Latimer Foundation, Methodist Healthcare, Project Transformation National, and the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church, including 19 partner churches and hundreds of community volunteers who read daily with the children.