OGDEN -- Twelve-year-old Hope Martinez remembers just how trapped she felt when she couldn't read well.
But last year, thanks to a pushy tutor who worked with her one on one for a half-hour twice a week, Hope worked constantly until she made her way up through 10 reading levels.
"I broke out of a cage," she said.
Hope recalls being motivated by wanting to impress her tutor, who became her friend.
"He said he believed in me," she said, noting that she started reading everything she could in between sessions, so her tutor could see her improve.
Before that accomplishment, Hope said teachers sometimes asked her to read out loud, and she would sit still until they would call on another student.
When those teachers would ask her to explain her behavior, she said she would just stare at them.
But now, Hope has a deep smile on her face as she tells of feeling like she fits in.
"I can read with people," she said. "I have faith in myself."
Those who oversee Read Today tutoring programs in Top of Utah elementary schools say there are many stories like Hope's.
And they'd like to add hundreds more students as one step in an effort to meet Gov. Gary Herbert's initiative to have 90 percent of Utah schoolchildren exhibiting proficient reading skills by 2020.
But in order for them to meet their goals this year, they'll need tutors for 375 more students by the end of the month.
"Our goal is to have 30 to 40 tutors in each school," said Gloria Skanchy. "Right now, we have schools with seven or eight."
Skanchy is the director of Read. Graduate. Succeed., the governor's core initiative for the state of Utah. She works out of the Ogden School District.
"We get the greatest results when the kids have tutoring for 30 weeks," she said. "If we don't get started right away, the kids won't have 30 weeks."
Read Today programs, which use the Star Reading curriculum written by the state Board of Education, start this time of year to allow teachers to pinpoint which students could most successfully use the one-on-one help.
"Nine times out of 10, they are probably not getting reading at home," said Kathy Kelly, Star Reading program coordinator for T.O. Smith Elementary School.
"Our primary goal if they are not reading by the first grade is to have them reading for sure by third grade, because the curriculum changes," she said.
If a children are not reading at a third-grade reading level by third grade, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school, according to a national report titled Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation.
Skanchy said, last year, 85 percent of kids statewide who had Read Today tutors added to their school experience -- a total of 3,300 kids -- made it to their grade level by the end of the school year.
One way these successes are becoming possible in the Top of Utah is through partnerships with area businesses.
Last year, two Northern Utah corporations -- JD Clark & Company Inc. and Associated Foods -- came on board, asking employees to take lunch hours or to stop during their time off at local schools to tutor kids.
This year, United Way of Northern Utah reports a growing number of companies on board for such an effort.
Fresenius Medical Care of Ogden is one of these companies. Officials, during company-wide benefits meetings that started last week, are sending out a plea to employees asking them to tutor kids.
"We are always looking for ways to be involved in the community," said Rich Slater, human resources director at Fresenius. He said officials are promoting "that feel-good feeling" to employees as they discuss the benefits of volunteering.
One company that has garnered about 20 volunteers this year is SymbolArts of South Ogden.
On Thursday, when Jackie Jereika, a purchasing and accounting employee at SymbolArts, met with fifth-grader Jessel Hernandez for a tutoring session at T.O. Smith Elementary, she said she was surprised to see what a difference she could make for a student by giving so little time.
Tutor Matt Pearson, marketing director at SymbolArts, and fifth-grader Eric Estrada said they were instant friends when they met a couple of weeks ago. They have the same hair, after all.
"It seems like they paired us up," Pearson said. "He likes sports, too. We read a lot about sports."
Skanchy is asking potential tutors to commit to one to two hours a week from now to the end of the school year.
Organizers say they match potential tutors with schools in their area to make the experience convenient.
Those wishing to register as a tutor in the Read Today program in the Ogden, Weber, Morgan or Box Elder School districts are asked to register through United Way of Northern Utah at uwnu.org.
Corporations wishing to sign up to help are asked to email United Way of Northern Utah Marketing and Development Director Mitch McBride at email@example.com or call him at 801-624-0686.
Those wanting to tutor in the Davis School District may register on the statewide website, readtoday.com.
For information, call Skanchy at 801-737-7403.
Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter at