Read To Achieve
By Edie Markman
Special to GoHolyCross.com
Above keeping up with the rigorous Holy Cross academic demands and attending daily practices, the majority of student-athletes participates in community service as well. One endeavor which has involved many Crusaders this year has been the new Read to Achieve program.
Initiated in October 2017, Read to Achieve is an after-school program created by the department of athletics. It is a platform for Holy Cross student-athletes to engage with the Worcester school community and promote reading to the youth.
The program has reached numerous middle schools in the Worcester and Auburn areas, including Central Tree Middle School, Dawson Elementary School, Wawecus Road School, Assumption Elementary School and Pakachoag School. When entering a school for the first time, basic introductions begin each session. Every middle schooler has the chance to introduce themselves to the group, and share a fun fact. The Holy Cross student-athletes participate in the introductions and mention the sports they plays in college. Then the collegiate athletes read to the students a book picked out by the class.
Customized Holy Cross bookmarks are also distributed to the children, including spots for them to fill in information on three books they have read. After reading three books and answering the questions, a teacher approves and signs the bookmark. The bookmark can be redeemed for free admission to a Holy Cross basketball or ice hockey game, as well as two discounted $5 tickets for their parents to use.
More than just reading to the students, the Holy Cross athletes engage in animated conversation ranging from the book they just finished, to what everyone was for Halloween. The effortless conversations that flow between the diversely aged classroom brings a new and positive attitude towards learning that might be hard for young children to feel in school.
“I think emphasizing the importance of reading, and the fun that comes with it is really impactful,” said participant and lacrosse player Henry Lilly. “In grade school, assigned reading and schoolwork can get a bit repetitive and uninspiring. Seeing the faces on the kids and the excitement they had when we read to them assures me that it was a memorable experience for many of them.”
Basketball player Nicole Morris agrees. “My favorite aspect of Read to Achieve is seeing the increase of energy that these kids have when we walk into their classrooms,” said Morris. “It’s refreshing to feel their excitement while they listen to our experiences, as well as to share their own stories with us.”
When attending Read to Achieve, the Holy Cross students view it as an enjoyable opportunity to spend time with lively personalities. The substantial age difference between the middle schoolers and college students allow for different opinions and points of view. “They bring a new outlook and perspective on things that I didn’t even realize myself,” Morris said. “The kids are also very interesting people, and they make this program what it is. It’s fun to be a part of their overflowing enjoyment and happiness.” Lilly agrees by saying, “At the Assumption School, the book we read was very popular amongst the children and got them to laugh at basically every page. Feeding off of their sense of humor and playing to their emotions is something I loved doing.”
The exposure to academically driven role-models causes the young students to view learning as an exciting opportunity and solidifies the importance of a college education. “It was an incredible experience reading to the kids,” said Lilly. “I would imagine that many of them have trouble paying attention during a normal class session, so having all of them focused on me for an extended period of time was truly a sight to see.” Witnessing the intense focus the students had on the athletes truly revealed the significance this program contains. “I now realize how much of an impact I have on these kids lives,” admitted Morris. “They look up to us more than I thought they would, which has shaped my desire to continue to try to influence more local communities positively.”
Though the athletes visit schools to help encourage the importance of education to the youth, they often find themselves learning valuable lessons from the middle schoolers. “It has shaped me into an individual who is committed to giving back,” Lilly admits. “No matter how packed my schedule is, or what is going on in my life, I will always have time to give back to the community.” The sincerity that each middle schooler brings to the classroom helps refocus the Holy Cross students on the specialness of being a student-athlete.
Read to Achieve has expanded the student-athletes view on the power they carry. “The Read to Achieve Program and Big Brothers Big Sisters has helped me realize how big of a reach we have as student-athletes,” said Lilly. “Spending time with kids, even if it is for one hour a week, can be life-changing and that is truly something special. The relationships I develop in these philanthropic organizations are perhaps the best part of being a student-athlete at Holy Cross.”
Interested in having your son or daughter’s elementary or middle school take part in this program or know a teacher who might be interested in having Holy Cross students visit their classroom? E-mail GoHolyCross@holycross.edu for more information.