Houston Newsmakers for April 15: Bush Houston Literacy marks five-year milestone


HOUSTON – After five years, the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation has helped thousands of Houston-area children improve their reading skills. Neil Bush, the co-founder along with his wife Maria, are guests this week on Houston Newsmakers with Khambrel Marshall.

He says the foundation continues to focus on the former First Lady’s passion.

“Her core belief is that if you can’t read at an age-appropriate level, you can’t possibly realize your fullest God-given potential in life,” he said. “If you can’t read as a third grader, you know, your future is already carved out and it’s not a very bright future.”

Bush also talks about the all-star lineup confirmed for this year's “Celebration of Reading” at the Hobby Center on April 19.

Thousands of aging foster children face long odds

Each year more than 1,000 children in Texas’ foster care turn 18 and “age” out of the system with no family. According to the Open Arms Adoption Services, within two years, 25 percent of them will likely be homeless.

Melissa Neeley is the marketing and development director for Open Arms and says her organization is on the front lines, trying to reduce those numbers and those odds.

“We have children that we work with all the time,” she said. “We have case workers that know that child and are working really hard to find people in their networks that would be willing to adopt these older children and sibling groups.”

Houston firefighter Van Kohrt did just that six years ago when he adopted his then 10-year-old son. He says the experience has been life changing.

See more about foster care and the adoption process in this week’s Houston Newsmakers EXTRA on adoptions and the challenge facing the Texas foster care system. 

Middle schoolers search for South Sudan solution for clean water 

It started with the book “A Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, which is based on the true story of Salva Dut, one of the "lost boys" of Sudan who was forced to walk hundreds of miles to safety before coming to the United States. He became a citizen but went back to Sudan to help solve the overwhelming crisis created by the lack of clean drinking water. 

That’s where the middle school students of St. Francis Episcopal School come in. Their “Project Based Learning” assignment asked the question, “how can we be a helping hand in solving the world’s water crisis?"

Connor Cook, head of the middle school, is a guest this week along with 8th grade student Lauren Drury, whose project to create a filter that could make dirty water safe won top honors and taught even more valuable lessons.

“As a kid, you think your age would limit you and you think that adults are going to do it for you,” she said. “But with this project, I learned that I can impact people around the world with my filter and I think that was a great thing to take away from it."

Salva Dut will be at St. Francis Episcopal for a reception and presentation. Information can be found here.

More Information 

Melissa Neeley, Marketing & Development Director, Arms Wide Adoption

Van Kohrt, Adoptive Father

Neil Bush, Co-Founder, Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation

Connor Cook, Ed.D., Head of Middle School, St. Francis Episcopal

Lauren Drury, St. Francis Episcopal School

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