BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - She’s been a volunteer in public schools for some 18 years and now, she’s a certified teacher and for the last several years has taught at Loranger Elementary.
But her biggest accomplishment and one she’s most proud of caught the attention of our Hand It On team this week.
Evelina Victor-Palmer is no ordinary volunteer. Unlike many of us, who merely talk about what we think our education system needs, Victor-Palmer is actually doing something about it.
“I saw so many children had dropped out of high school, so many had dropped out of middle school, and they were like babies having babies," said Victor-Palmer on her motivation to actually get involved. "Some were even in jail or prison.”
“So, I was so overwhelmed. I asked the Lord, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ And the thing I heard him telling me was to help them learn to read, tutor them. And that’s what I started doing,” she added.
But even more than just tutoring, Victor-Palmer felt a call to start a more formal program. So ten years ago, she founded the REACH Book Club.
“REACH is an acronym. The R stands for respect. And when I go around and I see disrespect, it fuels me. So rather than having a negative reaction to it, I’d rather have a positive reaction and just teach people how to show respect. The E stands for education. I believe that each child has an opportunity to get an education, not only in elementary, middle, and high school, but beyond that. Then, the A stands for access. Back then in my day, we didn’t have a lot of access to internet, but you have more open doors than I had. But you know who my resources was? My grandmother, my mom, my sisters, my brother; you still have resources. You still have friends. You have family members. You have pastors in the church. You have different people that can help you. Utilize your resources. The C stands for communication. So we talk about communicating positively. We talk about showing respect. Positive communication. Remove the profanity. Don’t use bad words. That corrupts good communication. Use positive words. And the last one, the H, which brings tears to my eyes, which God really instilled in me is hope. And he gave me this scripture, Jeremiah 29:11. And He told me that He has great plans for me. No matter what your circumstances look like, long as you have hope, that’s all you need,” she explained.
The REACH Book Club meets on the first Saturday of each month at Delmont Gardens Library near Tony’s Seafood off Plank Road in Baton Rouge. And in the ten years of the program, Victor-Palmer has seen huge improvements in students who participate.
“I saw reading scores going up, children’s self-esteem just flourished. Students who didn’t like to read love reading now because they’re able to read in a smaller setting. They’re not feeling intimidated or anything like that when they’re here in the REACH Book Club,” she said.
The countless hours Victor-Palmer devotes to children through the REACH program is done out of the goodness of her heart and with her own money. Volunteers have stepped up to help with the REACH Book Club and she does accept donations from family and friends. Outside of that, however, everything associated with supporting this endeavor is coming out of her pocket.
When Victor-Palmer was nominated for WAFB’s Hand It On recognition and $300 cash award, she was surprised and humbled.
“This nomination means a lot to me. I’ve been doing this for years, and regardless of the nomination, I thank God for the nomination that somebody saw that I was making a difference and continue to make a difference in the lives of the children. But more so than the recognition for me, I want other people to become a part of this, not just talk about it, but let’s do something about it. Work in the school system as a volunteer to help make [kids'] education better, to let them be able to increase their reading skills, increase their reading scores, and be able to get scholarships and grants university and get entry into university,” she explained.
Evelina Victor-Palmer, you are truly a shining light in our community, for our families, and for our children. Learn more about the REACH program by contacting Victor-Palmer at 225-284-2207.
And to nominate someone for WAFB’s Hand It On recognition, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com.
Make sure to include your contact information, especially your phone number.