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Building Community with Eight Waves: It All Starts With Learning to Read 

Building Community with Eight Waves: It All Starts With Learning to Read 

Eight Waves, based in Winter Garden, is a small team making a big impact through reading intervention, tutoring, and community supports. Initially, the program began with the goal of just providing homework help and mentorship, but quickly realized a greater need. Today, the afterschool program serves about 25 kids.  

“We realized almost immediately that many of our students were not able to read,” explains Kelly Carr, the organization’s Director of Operations and Programs. “We had to refocus the program and look more at reading and phonics and developing those skills before we could tackle the homework help component.” 

Eight Waves believes teaching children to read as early as possible is crucial. They recently partnered with Orlando Health South Lake to launch “Books for Babies” to accomplish this. Every baby born at the hospital is sent home with a book and information on why reading is so important. 

“Our vision is to start educating parents about the importance of reading way before the kids are ready for school,” Carr said. “Then that feeds into our program where we can help support parents when they’re [the child is] in school, all the way through to get them to graduate.” 

Along with reading, Eight Waves is also making sure youth in their program are being sent home with hygiene items and have opportunities to celebrate their birthday. This started when program administrators discovered students of all ages couldn’t celebrate their birthdays – some never having had their own birthday cake! Now, each kid gets a gift and their own cake with candles to blow out every year for their celebration. 

And their work is having an impact! Eight Waves works with the school administration and teachers to monitor the progress of students through regular review of report card data. The results show that the students served by Eight Waves have improved behavior and grades. 

Part of the program’s success is owed to community partnerships such as Soul Haven Ranch and Peace Comfort Dog, which bring therapy animals – a miniature pony and a golden retriever, respectively – once a month to read with the children.  

Looking forward, Eight Waves hopes to continue its growth. They may be a small team now, but they are making a big impact and looking to expand into more schools each year.  

Learn more about Eight Waves in Winter Garden by visiting them online: https://www.eightwaves.org/.


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