BETHLEHEM, Pa. - More than 30 Lehigh student-athletes headed to Donegan Community School Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the Reading Rocks kickoff event. Reading Rocks is a program run through Lehigh Athletics, Greek Life and St. Luke’s Hospital. It’s designed to help the elementary school students improve their reading ability and PSSA (Pennsylvania System of School Assessment) scores.
Every other Wednesday throughout the fall and spring semesters, Lehigh student-athletes will go to Donegan from 4:30-5:30 p.m. and spend time helping students with reading and homework assignments. Lehigh’s student-athletes help the Donegan students have fun with work and enjoy reading in order to help them focus more on education.
This week’s event did not feature any reading, but instead saw Lehigh students introduce themselves and excite Donegan students for the future reading. Clutch Hawk led the youngsters into cheers when students entered and after each introduction. Standout men’s basketball senior C.J. McCollum also talked to the students at the end of the introductions about the importance of reading.
“The energy for this initial assembly was great,” said men’s lacrosse senior goalie Griffin Farha. “I think every Donegan student was excited to learn more about some of Lehigh's student-athletes, and they were definitely excited to hear from C.J.”
McCollum and a Donegan school coordinator both explained to the students that the Mountain Hawk athletes would be back frequently to help continue the excitement towards reading.
“We need to constantly remind these young students that reading at a young age was as critical in getting us to Lehigh as our hard work in athletics,” said Farha. “We want to send the message that academic success must be the priority, and that reading can be a lot of fun as well.”
Lehigh’s student-athletes enjoy helping the younger students, but also see the trips to Donegan as a source of fun and excitement for themselves.
“Reading Rocks is a great opportunity for not only the students of Donegan, but also for the Lehigh athletes as well,” said women’s soccer sophomore Darby Dustman. “It reminds us how fortunate we are to go to such a great school while it’s a great way to give back to the local community. The kids also love working with the student-athletes as it gives them an opportunity to enjoy reading while having fun with their idols. I personally love working with the children and know that although we see them twice a month, it makes a huge difference in their reading ability.”
Dustman, a midfielder, is one of five Lehigh Student Athlete Council members on Lehigh’s Reading Rocks Committee. She and the other committee members focus on helping Reading Rocks be as enjoyable and productive as possible while making sure many different athletes from different sports attend each session.
“Every Lehigh student-athlete who participates in Reading Rocks knows how beneficial it is for the students,” she said. “It’s sometimes the only time the children get to practice their reading skills outside of school. The children look forward to each week and are able to improve an essential life skill in a fun environment. Just being around older college students is exciting for the kids.”
The first full session of Reading Rocks is set to take place next Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. at Donegan Community School.
Story by Cameron Omsberg ’13.