A new literacy program developed in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is employing evidence-based practices to boost the literacy skills of young high school students.

Doctoral program Director and Professor Barbara Ehren designed the language-focused literacy program, named “Bridge Builders Academy,” for a cohort of rising freshmen at Evans High School, located in the Pine Hills area of Orlando. The group consists of 40 students with a demonstrated need for increased reading proficiency.

Ehren launched the program in June with a six-week summer session for the cohort at Evans High. The session included collaborative and individual classroom exercises led by two of the high school’s teachers, Ivette Torres and Paulette Stadelman.

Ten UCF master’s degree students in communication sciences and disorders also participated in the session by leading small-group exercises. Clinical Educator Tom Ehren and doctoral student Kimmerly Harrell supervised their efforts.

“This gave our graduate students experience planning and implementing language intervention for adolescents,” Ehren said. “The Evans students said working with our students was their favorite part of the program.”

Bridge Builders Academy continues this fall with the cohort taking intensive language classes offered by teachers at Evans under the guidance of Ehren and her team. In addition, Ehren and Harrell are exploring opportunities for empirical research studies.

“Our partnership with Evans is an excellent example of direct service to the community coupled with opportunities to prepare graduate students for their profession as well as to conduct research,” Ehren said. “It is also replicable in other communities with a high percentage of K-12 students who struggle with literacy.”