America Reads/America Counts

Marie O'Grady, reading to students

Contact Information

Whitman College Student Engagement Center, 509-527-5183.
Questions? Email

Program Description

This program is designed to enhance primary- and secondary-level reading and math skills of children in Walla Walla, while providing Whitman College students the opportunity to give back to their community, gain work experience, and earn money. America Reads/America Counts interns are funded through the Federal and Washington State Work Study programs. The program is coordinated through the Student Engagement Center (SEC). Although participation is subject to funding, the Student Engagement Center aims to support 20-30 interns each semester.

In the words of intern Marie O'Grady, Whitman College Class of 2014:

I took the job as an America Reads/America Counts Intern at Sharpstein Elementary School in the fall of 2010, my freshman year at Whitman. I applied for the job on a whim. I lacked experience and bumbled through the interview. In all honesty, I was lucky to get the job.

Each semester, interns are placed in classrooms ranging from kindergarten to 5th grade to assist the teachers and work with students one-on-one or in small groups. We not only help students who are struggling, but also push successful students to further strengthen their math and reading skills. ARAC also benefits us in a number of ways by teaching real-world skills such as punctuality, creativity and patience, while also presenting new perspectives on the education system. Recently, I have become interested in environmental education in elementary schools, which I hope to be doing next year.

Over the last four years, I have watched kindergarteners learn to say thank you, shared in the joys of first graders completing their first chapter book and been beaten by fourth graders in Jeopardy (embarrassingly). I have received more hugs, cupcakes and Valentine's cards than I can count. I feel so blessed to have had this opportunity to grow with the kids in such an inspiring and passionate community. I still don't know how I got the job, but I'm glad that I did.

Marie received the Outstanding ARAC Intern Award for the 2013-2014 academic year.

Program Requirements

In order to be eligible for payment for participation in America Reads/America Counts, Whitman Students must be eligible for Federal or Washington State Work Study Aid. Hours worked cannot exceed a student's Work Study allowance. Whitman interns must be directly engaged in work to enhance the reading and math skills of local primary school students through one-on-one or small group interaction.

Whitman students will serve as tutors for an average of 5-8 hours per week. They will be paid an hourly wage, which may not be lower than the Washington State Minimum Wage. Interns must sign in and out on a site-specific timesheet. sign-in sheets will be faxed to Marisol Beccerra at 509-527-5934, or ideally scanned and emailed to Marisol at by the 5th of each month. Interns will be expected to maintain an environment of professionalism and will serve as good role models for Walla Walla students.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Through this internship with America Reads/Counts, interns will:

  1. Gain experience in education and learn important educational concepts through observation and practical application.
  2. Gain professional skills and learn about accountability in a work setting.
  3. Learn to adapt to students' needs and solve problems creatively.
  4. Increase communication skills with a variety of audiences.
  5. Increase their cultural competence and gain broader and more diverse perspectives.

These outcomes will be achieved not only by the day-to-day experience within the classroom, but with additional interventions from the Student Engagement Center, in conjunction with the schools. These interventions will include:

  • Training by the SEC at the beginning of each intern's term.
  • Intern group orientation at individual sites with coordinators. These orientations should include conversations about rules, expectations, and procedures, educational philosophy of the school, school culture, and best practices.
  • Opportunities for reflection from both the intern and the site coordinators/teachers on intern performance.
  • Individual intern check-ins with site coordinators, as well as encouraged participation in teacher planning time.
  • Opportunities for new interns to shadow experienced interns.
  • Opportunities for interns to update their resumes and meet with a career advisor for final reflection at the conclusion of their participation with America Reads/Counts.

Recruiting and Hiring

Interested in applying to become an ARAC intern? Visit the Be an ARAC Intern page.

Interns will be recruited through emails sent via the Whitman College listservs, as well as through promotional items on campus. Applications are accepted twice yearly on a rolling basis. Applications for spring tutors will be accepted starting the end of August.

Intern applicants should have previous experience working with young children, as well as previous leadership experience. Once interns have passed the application screening, an interview will be scheduled with the Outreach Coordinator of the SEC. Applicants will also be required to submit to a background check completed by the Washington State Patrol. All school assignments will be pending this background check.


Interns will be required to attend a training session prior to the beginning of their assignment. This training session will be held prior to the start of each semester. Content will include but will not be limited to:

  • Overview of program expectations, including learning outcomes.
  • Rules and procedures.
  • Professionalism, including proper behavior and attire.
  • Communication skills, including self-advocacy.

Reporting and Fiscal Management

Payroll will be managed by the Outreach Coordinator of the Student Engagement Center. All interns are responsible for signing in and out of the work location each day that is worked. Sign-in sheets will be faxed to Marisol Beccerra at 509-527-5934, or ideally scanned and emailed to Marisol at by the 5th of each month. Interns must alert the SEC office as well as their site coordinator and teachers of any absences from work, preferably with some prior notice. Students who are Washington State residents will be required to sign their time sheet in person in the SEC office no later than the 10th of each month. All other interns will be required to complete and submit their web time sheets no later than the 8th of each month.


Interns must notify both the Site Coordinator and the Outreach Coordinator of the Student Engagement Center of any schedule changes due to illness or other extenuating circumstance. Should a pattern of absenteeism develop, the student will be contacted by the Outreach Coordinator to discuss the student's commitment to the America Reads/Counts program.

Site Coordinators may also notify the Outreach Coordinator of SEC to discuss any issues involving interns.


Interns will be provided the opportunity to reflect on and evaluate their skills and experiences through assessment at the beginning of the year or semester, as well as at the conclusion of the year or semester. This assessment will include both quantitative and qualitative assessment. Teachers and site coordinators will also be able to provide feedback on the program and performance of the interns.