Celebrating Two Decades of Outreach Through Reading
It is amazing to think that it has been 20 years since the first Read-In at Central Elementary School in City Heights. LC member Jan Atkinson launched a Career Day Read In event and established Lawyers Club’s formal “Partnership in Education” with Central in the 1996-1997 school year. A few months later, as the new chair of what is now the Community Outreach Committee, I was tasked with further developing and overseeing this partnership. At a meeting with the school, we brainstormed plans for the first Halloween Read-In.
This was before email really took off, so organizing meant long cold calls to everyone I knew asking them to participate—and then individually faxing confirming information. I would describe the intense need at the school, where even today, every student qualifies for free breakfast and lunch and must overcome daunting economic disadvantages. The children are in need of role models to encourage things like a love of reading, staying in school, going to college or considering a dream career.
For twenty years, I have humbly watched our volunteers flood the school at read-ins to be these role models. It didn’t take long for us to add a Spring Read-In. After the first few years, La Raza Lawyers Association joined us to recruit Spanish/English bilingual readers for bilingual-designated classrooms. Our volunteers have brought books, treats, school supplies, and most of all themselves—with many dedicated readers returning year after year, and new readers always joining in. I have watched firsthand as our volunteers—from city officials to first-year law students—inspire the kids to fulfill their own potential.
Still, the needs at Central remain great. I was told by Central staff that there is no money in the budget for basic school supplies this year. The kids return towards the end of August, and they are missing things like paper, pencils, markers and items needed for the school to open. I know the families are not in a position to make up the difference for each child. Even worse, kids in the 4th and 5th grades are in non-air-conditioned trailer-classrooms where temperatures rise to the point that teachers have to stop lessons to ensure the students are okay, despite the heat. High temperatures will persist through the October Read-In, and teachers in these classes asked me to see if our members would help donate fans. Sooooo, the COC created an online wish list through which our members can donate. I am truly hoping that the wishlist link goes viral and people forward it to everyone they know who might donate. Every little bit helps and in the aggregate, we can make a huge impact on the 800+ small children at the school who have so many obstacles to overcome.
Helping kids is a passion for me. I believe that to change society we must outreach to the next generation. If we empower and teach our values to the children, we change the world. Twenty years later, organizing the read-ins is one of the most important and fulfilling things I do. This year, we celebrate two decades of Read-Ins at Central Elementary School on Monday, October 31, 2016 (Halloween) from 11:15 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Mayor Kevin Faulconer will speak and read to kids. I am always grateful to the returning readers who continue to make such a difference and excited to welcome new volunteers to what has become my favorite and most meaningful Halloween tradition. Join us by emailing me at Macosky@san.rr.com.
This blog post was authored by Michele Macosky. Michele Macosky practices employment law and is a Harry Potter fan.