Commissioner Beam Furr: A Librarian, an Elected Official, and a TutorMate Champion

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Commissioner Beam Furr, third from left, and Broward County Government tutors meeting their students in person for the first time at the EOY Celebration.

Commissioner Beam Furr, third from left, and Broward County Government tutors meeting their students in person for the first time at EOY Celebration.

Cognizant of how imperative it is to close the literacy gap by the 3rd grade, Commissioner Beam Furr of Broward County, FL has been an active proponent of TutorMate since he was first introduced to the program in 2015.

Commissioner Furr has gone above and beyond to support and expand the TutorMate program within the district. During a recent County Commission Meeting, Commissioner Furr even proclaimed August 16th, Tutor Volunteer Appreciation Day in Broward. We’re incredibly thankful to Commissioner Furr, the Broward County Government, the Broward County Public Schools, the Broward Education Foundation, and all of our local partners, for endorsing TutorMate and helping to provide reading tutors for over 200 students last year. 

As a librarian and a former teacher, Commissioner Furr is particularly passionate about reading. IFL recently had the opportunity to speak with him to learn more about how our communities can help in the local and national efforts to close the literacy gap. You can also watch Commissioner Furr here in an interview on South Florida’s PBS station, WPBT2.

1) Why is literacy important to you, and how are you making literacy and education priorities in Broward County?
 
I am proud to say that I am the only librarian in the country currently serving in elected office. My 30 years of experience as a teacher and media specialist is part of the reason that I am so passionate about literacy, but that isn’t the only reason. There is no way that a community can be successful if a significant number of its people cannot read proficiently. This is true today and will certainly be true in the future. I know, without a doubt, that literacy is the key to continued future success for Broward County and for our country.
 
2) Why is TutorMate a good fit for Broward County employees and companies?

I am Co-Chair of the Children’s Services Council’s “Broward Reads” – This is our local initiative aligned with the national “Campaign for Grade Level Reading”. The premise of our work is that we need to galvanize every sector of the community to ensure our young people can read at grade level. TutorMate has been a fantastic tool for bringing the broader community into this effort.
 
Our business community understands return on investment. They know that ensuring a well prepared workforce is in their best interest. Broward County Government is doing its part, not just talking about it, but actually doing something about the challenge before us. We too are investing in the future success of our community.
 
We all want to help but unfortunately for many of us, getting away from our workplace to physically be present at a school and work one-on-one with a child is just not possible. The [TutorMate] technology makes it so easy to volunteer without having to leave your desk!

 
3) How will students benefit from participating in TutorMate?

These young people not only gain reading proficiency, they also gain self-confidence by interacting with another adult who treats them like they are important. It is amazing what this small amount of [weekly] time focused on one young person can do to make a difference.
 
4) How will employees and companies benefit?

At Broward County Government, we found that our employees looked forward to time with their students. Their faces light up when they talked about their student. The experience made our employees feel like they were doing something meaningful. Many of those who tutored last year admitted that they may have gotten more enjoyment out of it than their students. It was a joy. It was great for employee morale and strengthened camaraderie among them.

Innovations for Learning and the TutorMate program are kicking off another school year in Broward County, and we’re looking forward to providing one-on-one reading tutors to nearly 250 students with the help of our community partners!

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