Communities In Schools of Peninsula program director Laurel Shultz and I had a delightful day last week at Harbor Heights Elementary School’s Camp Read-a-Lot. Kids from kindergarten to high school were a gush of excited, happy learning and mentoring activity under the guidance of CISP site coordinator Lara Unger.
CISP is partnering with Gig Harbor Rotary North, the FoodBackPacks4Kids program, Chapel Hill Church, and the Peninsula School District to offer this pilot program.
“As an organization, our mission is to surround kids with a community of support, ensuring they have the resources needed to promote success in learning and ultimately in life,” said CISP volunteer coordinator & development assistant Cathy Rich. “We are fortunate to have volunteers in the community who give of their time and talent to help kids nurture a love of reading in this summer program. Many of these volunteers also mentor during the academic school year in our after-school reading programs.”
Both third-grader Emily Smith and second-grader Eriana Smith agreed that they were “having a lot of fun and excited to go. We love the lunches, too.”
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“The summer reading and nutrition program operating at Harbor Heights and Vaughn elementaries is a combined reading and lunch program to boost reading skills,” said Shultz. “Hopefully this pilot program will grow to include more schools and more kids next summer. Each day, children receive a hot lunch.”
Volunteer Ryan Burgess, a freshman at Gig Harbor High School, said, “Serving the hot lunch program was one of my favorite things I have done this summer, the kids were so nice and I would love to be a part of other community programs! It was definitely a highlight of my summer.”
Kids had fun reading in tents set up for Camp Read-a-Lot and delighted in a scavenger hunt to work on vocabulary and reading fluency.
For HHE kindergartener Hugo Ibarra, “It has been fun!”
Summer is a great time to keep reading skills sharp for the upcoming school year. The goal of all of the community partners is to provide opportunities for kids to learn, grow, and feel good about their reading. The kids really enjoy eating with their friends.
Only because I wanted to set a good example for the youngsters, I savored their delicious lunch of roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, peas, fruit, corn bread, milk and a cookie for dessert, all served by Chapel Hill Church volunteers. Believe me, I was a good example!
The menu is different every day and the kids look forward to finding out what we will be eating.
“Chapel Hill volunteers are a great connection with students,” Unger said. “They interact with them while serving food, take time to talk with students and parents, and have even been able to convince kids to try new foods and eat their vegetables.”
I found it rewarding that students from kindergarten to high school were mixed into the same learning groups and none seemed to notice.
Third-grader Leticia Ibarra said, “It has been amazing. I like reading. My favorite part has been the lunch because the cupcakes were yummy.”
What did I tell ya?
CISP has more than 125 trained mentors and is currently accepting applications for new volunteers to serve at several Peninsula School District elementary schools. New mentor training is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sept. 12 at the PSD main office in Gig Harbor.
For information, contact Cathy Rich at 253-884-5733.
Hugh McMillan is a longtime contributing writer for the Gateway. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.