• Conservative Leadership in Senate District 8

GAGs (Golden-Aged Guys)


- [Sen. Brian] Well, hi, everyone. This is Senator Brian Zehnder. And joined with me today is Wally Brown. And I wanted to just introduce Wally to you. I happened to be at a breakfast this morning, and with a bunch of people, and they call themselves the group of the GAGs, I guess. And I'm trying to get to know more people in our community. And Wally, tell me about the group.

- [Wally] Well, GAGs is just an acronym for Golden-Aged Guys.

- [Sen. Brian] Golden-Aged Guys, okay.

- [Wally] And several years ago one of our neighbors here who is now passed on, a really fine leader, he had this idea of anyone we could get in the neighborhood who was interested meet together once a month. We started out just giving our own bios so that we got better acquainted.

- [Sen. Brian] So just people in the community getting together once a month to learn about what's goin on in Cottonwood Heights and in this area, and how we can support each other, and kind of give back to the community. And I said when I was there at breakfast this morning, I said, they were asking me, you were asking me about the things that I'm really passionate about. And I said, well, education is also always really important to me. And we were talking a little bit about literacy. And I said, did you know that if children aren't reading at the third grade level by the time they're in third grade they're four times more likely not to graduate from high school. And 50% of our current Utah students are in that category. And you said, well, let me tell you what we've been doing for the last number of years.

- [Wally] Yeah.

- [Sen. Brian] So tell me about your program.

- [Wally] It's been about eight years that we've been doing this. I was in a position where I actually started this dictionary project all over Utah through the Rotary Clubs. And then that sort of segued into, because the folks in GAGs here knew that I was doing that. Then they said,

- [Sen. Brian] So this is a dictionary project. What do you mean? This is the dictionary, but what do you do with these dictionaries?

- [Wally] We go to every classroom in the state.

- [Sen. Brian] Okay.

- [Wally] Public, private, charter, all the schools, and we contact them. We've only been turned down twice. And that's only because these were a couple of a couple of wealthy private schools that said, use your money elsewhere.

- [Sen. Brian] So you take these dictionaries, and you give them to?

- [Wally] Third grade children.

- [Sen. Brian] Third grade kids. They give these dictionaries to third grade kids all over the state.

- [Wally] Why third graders? Well, the educators tell us that until up to the third grade, children are learning to read. From that point on, they're reading to learn. So if they've missed the first part, as you mentioned, if they've missed the first part then they're not going to be learning.

- [Sen. Brian] Yeah.

- [Wally] With the consequences that you pointed out.

- [Sen. Brian] Yeah, isn't that something? Now, approximately, how many dictionaries has your group given out over the last eight years? Any sense at all?

- [Wally] The three schools that we visit are all Title I schools, and I would say that third grade enrollment of the three schools totaled would be about 260 third grade children.

- [Sen. Brian] Okay, so over the last eight years, maybe 10,000 books. 10,000 dictionaries give or take.

- [Wally] Yep.

- [Sen. Brian] That's pretty amazing. This is a group of men that have been involved with this community, and they're making a difference in helping our children become literate so they graduate from high school and become productive members of society. How can people help if they're interested, and they'd like to contribute? Maybe they've got 20 bucks or 100 bucks, and they say, listen, I think this is a worthy cause. What could they do?

- [Wally] Well, you'd be most welcome. The cost of the books, undoubtedly, keep going up.

- [Sen. Brian] Yeah.

- [Wally] Because everything is getting more expensive. So we can contact me at my cell phone. You can send me a text message at 801-718-8341, or my email brownwally. B-R-O-W-N-W-A-L-L-Y @gmail.com.

- [Sen. Brian] Great. So just one way that people are making a difference in our children. And it was just such a pleasure to get to visit with you today. I'm so encouraged. I'm so encouraged for the future of our children and their literacy. And it's just so exciting to visit with you for a few minutes, and to hear about the wonderful things that are going on. So thank you so much. And keep up the good work. It's really incredible.

- [Wally] Well, this has dominated my service life for some years now both in the Rotary Clubs and in this small group of neighborly friends here.

- [Sen. Brian] Yeah, we all need to do what we can to make a difference.

- [Wally] That's right. It's been good.

- [Sen. Brian] So thanks for tuning in. Until next time, take care. Brian Zehnder signing off.


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