, a non-profit organization that assists in homework help and tutoring for children, were chosen this month as finalists for the national Toyota 100 Cars for Good contest.
The contest, which had thousands of organizations apply from all over the country, will give 100 organizations a Toyota vehicle, free of charge. The choices of the vehicle are a Toyota Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Prius or Highlander Hybrid.
"We're going to choose the Highlander," said Rosemarie Lebert-Clarke, director and one of the founders of Reading to Learn.
Having only entered the contest no more than a month ago, Lebert-Clarke said it's been a fast process. As one of the 500 finalists, Reading to Learn was required to make a two-minute video in relation to the Toyota contest and submit it by the end of this week.
In the video, which the organization shot last Saturday, Lebert-Clarke said it has scenes of kids in the classroom at the organization, but also ties into the fact that they really need this vehicle. In one scene where seven or eight kids are exhausted from walking to the Reading to Learn building, one of the organization's teacher says, "It'd be really nice if we had a Toyota Highlander."
Their video, which was shot on a Flip camera that Toyota sent to each finalist, will be edited by her son, Denzel Clarke, since he's a senior in his film production program at Greater Atlanta Christian in Norcross.
After all videos have been sent in, Toyota will feature five videos every day on its Facebook page and viewers are able to vote for which ones they like the best. The top 100 organizations with the most-voted on videos win.
She said that if Reading to Learn is chosen as one of the winners, the organization would use it to pick up and drop off their students who don't have a ride to their tutoring and homework sessions.
"People come as far as Douglasville," Lebert-Clarke said. "There's one that comes from Madison, which is quite a distant, but the majority come from Gwinnett and DeKalb county."
Even if Reading to Learn isn't picked, Lebert-Clarke said that Toyota will still award the organization $1,000.
Reading to Learn started out as just teaching the basic school subjects of English, math, science and social studies. The organization only moved to Lilburn last May, but it's been around for about five years. Lebert-Clarke founded the organization with Luc-Felix Ekono, a nuclear physicist. Unfortunately, Ekono passed a few years ago of prostate cancer, so Lebert-Clarke has been running the organization as the sole director.
The teaching staff consists of eight individuals who all possess a Master's degree or greater. Each teacher has his or her own special niche and subject that is taught to the 60 or so children who attend Reading to Learn. Their subjects include the usual core subjects, but also even go as far as studying Japanese.
"My son's been here for a couple of months," said Deborah Skeete about her 9-year-old son, Justin, a third grader at Minor Elementary School in Lilburn. Her son was also featured in the Toyota video they shot. "He's had a good experience."
The organization also has summer camps and special programs, such as a six-week writing program preparing for the big reading test for third graders, which seven students participated in this past year. Their services are offered Monday through Thursday and Saturday to children in Kindergarten to the college years.
There is a charge for the services offered, which goes to paying the teachers and other necessary expenses, but Lebert-Clarke said Reading to Learn always tries to teach children whose parents can't afford tutoring or educational help.
"We have some kids that we took on for free," said Lebert-Clarke. "English wasn't their first language. We see a problem where they're constantly being put in special-ed programs, instead of finding the time to really teach them. So we took on some of those kids, and they're just doing wonderfully in school."
For those interested in signing up their children for educational assistance, call Reading to Learn at 770-279-6987. Also, as a non-profit organization, donations are always welcome via their website and in person at their location, 4805 Lawrenceville Highway, Suite 244, Lilburn.