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The CFFR is a fundraiser benefitting two causes, the "I Can Read" Program of Carbondale, Illinois, and the Obo-Kwahu community in Ghana, West Africa. Learn about the causes below.

"I Can Read" Program, Carbondale, IL

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“I Can Read” (ICR) is a local, volunteer program [501(c)3] that was founded in 1998 as a community service of the 1948 graduating class of Attucks High School, a segregated school that existed in Carbondale IL until 1964.  ICR provides a vital community-wide, after-school program for 30 children annually, at no cost to the families.  In addition, ICR offers a summer reading camp designed to provide 30 - 40 students an academic program that will shield them from loss of the previous year’s reading gains and, at the same time, provide enrichment that will help them to be better prepared for future life opportunities.  Students of the “I Can Read” Program are of diverse backgrounds and abilities, predominantly of African American heritage - the same group whose school achievement has shown depressed test performance, compared to other students. Overall, the school district often reports improvement in student success, but standardized test results still differentiate African American students, nationally, statewide, and particularly in Carbondale.  

University students with the same backgrounds are nationally shown to be underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM subjects and careers). Therefore, we want our programming to, not only teach reading from books, but to also give them exposure to current electronic and other means, as well as give experiential opportunities such as college and university visitation to units such as Engineering, Medicine, Film Making, Radio and Television, Technology, and Education. We also want them to have the opportunity to learn to swim during summer camp, to be exposed to master teachers/ professors who can help them to learn to respect the power of being in control of their own behavior, to maximize their individual potential, to appreciate the University and community college as important institutions in our community and to recognize what it offers to the process and span of education related to their futures. We would like our resources to allow even more outreach exploration during summer camp; that would then be reinforced by program input from those outside by focused visits to ICR during the school year. 

“I Can Read” judges its quality by the partners and collaborators it continues to hold, as well as by the success of the children, using reading score comparisons. It has been able to continue its high quality program largely through imposing an unduly heavy load on a few volunteers and by having productive, in-kind partnerships and collaborations with community entities such as Carbondale Elementary School District, Southern Illinois University College of Education and Human Services, John A. Logan College, local churches, community-based Greek-lettered organizations, the Boys and Girls Club of Carbondale, local Rotary Clubs, and others. However, economic effects felt by some of the partners/collaborators do not always allow them to provide the support necessary for a bright future for a well-rounded “I Can Read” Program.

Under greatest threat in the program is the summer reading camp that has been offered to the children during most of the years of existence of the overall program.  Four of these years were via special grant funds under the guidance of the SIU College of Education and Human Services. ICR has been able to continue largely through the generosity of special donors who have given on a year-by-year basis.

ICR is supported by a variety of reliable and generous donors and serviced by a cadre of highly qualified, dependable, and engaged community and college student volunteers, along with an outstanding mix of former and current parents who encourage and support the students. The City of Carbondale provides an annual grant that tends to cover most of the rent that is necessary for program space. While the reading and socialization needs of the children remain as intense as ever, the pool of donors and volunteers continues to get more and more difficult to sustain. Multiple demands on donors and steep competition for volunteers’ time contribute to a decline in contributions to “I Can Read.”

This is a very important program and our results are evident in many ways, including semi-annual talent displays that capitalize on their reading progress, as illustrated by the article, Positive Incentives in The Southern Illinoisan, Friday, January 3, 2014. The needs of the children of ICR bears connections to the vestiges of segregation and the unspoken, but clearly visible link to this is found in the fact that the program’s most capable, founding director is Mrs. Margaret J. Nesbitt, a “bluebird” graduate of Attucks High School class of 1948, then a segregated school in Carbondale IL.

Ella P. Lacey, Ph.D., Emeritus Faculty, SIU School of Medicine and Committed Associate of the I Can Read Program of Southern Illinois

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Obo-Kwahu Community, Ghana, West Africa

Photos courtesy of Kwadjo Dankyi, Felix Anokwa, & Percy Sackey

Obo-Kwahu is one of the main towns located in the Kwahu enclave in the verdant, rocky eastern region of Ghana, West Africa. The Obo community has five government primary schools (equivalent to American elementary and middle schools) with a population of about 500 students. As co-beneficiaries of the CFFR, funds allotted to the Obo-Kwahu community will support the education of students at the Obo Presby ‘A’, Obo Presby ‘B’, Obo Anglican, Obo Methodist, and Obo Roman Catholic primary schools. Children in that community are faced with significant challenges, including low self-esteem, poor grades, absenteeism from school, and low school enrollment, that negatively impact their studies and ability to compete with students in other regions and Ghana’s major cities. Additionally, the children’s clothes, school fees, uniforms, and school supplies (backpacks, textbooks, writing utensils, etc.) are either inadequately supplied or absent. This is due to their parents’ insufficient incomes or complete lack thereof, as most residents of the Obo-Community earn their living through subsistence farming, which is woefully inadequate to feed their families and cover their children’s school expenses. Consequently, most children do not have the opportunity to attend school and enjoy the future benefits that receiving an education can bring them and their families. Students who are fortunate enough to enroll in school sometimes have to drop out to support their families’ farming efforts, leading to increasing numbers of drop-outs who do not have employable skills to earn an adequate income. This fuels the poverty cycle, dimming the prospects of brighter futures for these students, their families, and the larger Obo-Kwahu community.


On April 1st, 2019, BBC Africa featured the story of Percy Sackey, a student-teacher at Abefiti College of Education in Kwahu, who is working with area students in the performing arts to help them uncover talents they might have there, achieve their academic potential, remain in school, and attract children who otherwise might not choose to attend school to enroll. The Percy Jackson Ghana Foundation, a non-profit organization Percy and his collaborators founded earlier this year, will receive CFFR funding support to help realize their goal of increasing the performance, retention, enrollment, and self-regard of students in the identified schools in the Obo-Kwahu community.