The Family Learning Institute
In November 2008, Rolfes was a part-time reading consultant at the Family Learning Institute, a free reading program for students in local elementary schools. Then fallout from the Great Recession killed crucial funding sources--and the executive director and three other staffers left.
Determined to keep the clinic alive, Rolfes took over as executive director. "I'm committed 100 percent to this mission," she says. FLI was founded in 1999 to bridge the achievement gap between low-income students, especially African Americans, and their better-off peers.
"Between January and June I was in survival mode," Rolfes recalls. "My mom's a Depression child, and I can pinch a penny better than anybody." She negotiated a 50 percent rent cut with FLI's "very generous" landlord, Bob Ufer Jr. She turned the heat down so far that she sometimes worked with gloves and coat on. And she persuaded dozens of volunteer tutors--FLI calls them "coaches"--to take on tasks like answering the phone, assembling curriculum materials, and planning the big spelling bee fundraiser (held this year on May 3--see Events).