The Power of One

Hayward Cordy, executive director of the Oconee Regional Educational Service Agency, says that poverty, disability, race, and gender do not define a child’s destiny—and just one supportive voice can change a whole life’s trajectory.

For Cordy, who grew up with more than a dozen siblings as well as extended family living in a six-room house with no running water, reading was the way forward to a better quality of life. Cordy shared a photo of him and his late mother in front of an old barn that serves as a lesson in persistence.

“That is an important backdrop for my journey,” said Cordy. “We went from being sharecroppers for years on that property, to being able to buy that property later on. So that barn reminds me that where you begin is not where you end.”

Cordy referenced a study of 98,000 Georgians that found third-grade reading proficiency translated into a 30-percent higher graduation rate—regardless of race and ethnicity, gender, poverty, English-learner status, or disability status.

“Reading proficiency is the great equalizer,” said Cordy. “What changed me was one teacher who saw the best in me. I learned early on that words have power, and the power of one rests with each of us—one child at a time, one life at a time.”

Get the full recap of the Beyond 2020 Get Georgia Reading Summit that brought together a unique cross-section of community leaders and statewide decision-makers to stimulate innovative, scalable solutions that will create the conditions essential for all children to become proficient readers by the end of third grade.

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