The JLW Awards Opportunity Grant to Little Lights Urban Ministries

The Junior League of Washington (JLW) is pleased to announce Little Lights Urban Ministries as the second of three organizations the JLW has awarded an opportunity grant to this fall. Opportunity grants are grants for less than $1,000 and are awarded to community organizations that are addressing one of the following complex areas of the JLW’s narrowed children’s reading literacy focus (1) lack of books in the home; (2) lack of books and resources in the school; and/or (3) reading out loud to children ages 0 – 5.

Since 1995, Little Lights Urban Ministries has been committed to providing sanctuaries of encouragement, hope, and practical assistance to at-risk children, youth and families in Washington, D.C.  Little Lights has evolved from providing an after-school tutoring program to providing both academic and social support. Throughout the year, Little Lights provides programs that focus on four main objectives: improving academic achievement, providing emotional support and encouragement, building character and leadership, and developing creativity and practical skills. The cornerstone of the organization’s programs is one-to-one interaction with caring adults through mentoring and tutoring.

Little Lights works primarily, but not exclusively, with families from Potomac Gardens, a public housing complex in Southeast DC where income for a family of four does not generally exceed $7,830 per year. Ninety percent of the Potomac Gardens children live in one-parent, female-headed households. It is estimated that, without intervention, less that 2% of the complex’s youth will attend college. Little Lights currently serves approximately 100 children and youth each year, many who attend schools designated “In Need of Improvement” by No Child Left Behind.  Little Lights provides a safe and welcoming place for children to learn after school.

At “Reading Heroes”, a weekly program, students improve reading skills, gain confidence, and develop a love for reading through working with caring adults. Last school year, the elementary and middle school Reading Heroes students gained almost a grade and a half in reading accuracy and comprehension skills. Little Lights plans to continue building on this success by accelerating our students’ fluency and comprehension skills this school year, ensuring their success as life-long readers.  Students are paired with tutors for one-to-one focused reading tutoring. Each volunteer tutor is trained and equipped with a specific lesson plan, including curriculum, for their student based on his or her reading level as determined by our assessments at the start of the school year. Additionally, the reading curriculum is being supplemented to include an online element called “Ticket to Read”, which tracks reading progress online and provides reading activities that are appropriate for each child’s reading level.

The $1,000 from the JLW will contribute to Ticket to Read program. The JLW also awarded 140 books through Resolution Read, which will enhance the after-school program’s library. Stay tuned to learn more about Hope House DC, the third of the grant recipients awarded this fall.

In the spring, the JLW will be awarding additional opportunity grants to community organizations, with a deadline of February 1 for submission of materials. Additional information can be found online. If you have questions about the opportunity grants or want additional information, please contact Alicia Lee, chair of the Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee at

Alicia Lee
Chair, Targeted Grants and Volunteer Resources Committee