Algonquin students read to Peaslee youngsters

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By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer

John Symans, a senior, reads to the 4th grade students in Melinda Kement's class. The teacher shared his class photo when he was one of her former students. Photo/Nance Ebert
John Symans, a senior, reads to the 4th grade students in Melinda Kement’s class. The teacher shared his class photo when he was one of her former students. Photo/Nance Ebert

Northborough – Nineteen student members of the Athletic Council at Algonquin Regional High School volunteered to read to the students at Marguerite E. Peaslee Elementary School Nov. 14.

The eager volunteers arrived ready to go to their assigned kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms. Many wore their athletic jackets and all were excited to connect with the students in a mentorship role.

“In the past, there has typically been a Community Reading Day in April. The Northborough Education Foundation (NEF) always funded it,” explained Clare Kelsey, school library specialist. “They would fund the books for all of the elementary schools through a grant. For reasons unknown, this Community Reading Day did not happen but we still had the grant money to use for books. So Dr. Jill Barnhardt, principal, Jen Shields, reading specialist, and I met to brainstorm how we could implement some type of community reading and this is what we came up with.”

Kelsey contacted Mike Moceriano, Algonquin’s athletic director, who presented the volunteer idea to the Athletic Council.

“When my daughter was a student at the Proctor School, there was a program similar to this one. That is where I got the idea. It was so successful and the younger students just love having someone from the high school come and interact with them. The high school students also have fond memories of having attended one of these elementary schools. They recognize teachers and classrooms. For them, it’s just as fun,” said Kelsey.

The three women put their heads together and selected books that focus on social emotional learning and that were appropriate for the different age groups. Fourteen books were purchased, one for each of the classrooms in the school.

“I really like that we chose a theme for this event,” Shields noted. “We also had each high school volunteer autograph the book that they would be reading. Everyone’s been so receptive and this type of partnership, gives the students somebody to look up to and think where they, themselves will be in a few years.”

The program lasted for about 45 minutes and began with each high school athlete introducing themselves. At the end of each book, the volunteers were also asked to talk to the students about the theme and how it is relevant to being a high school student and relay the message that kindness is important no matter how old you are.

One volunteer, senior Mia McAuliffe, attended Peaslee. Her father is the gym teacher there and she said she was excited to be back.

“It’s great for the younger students to see how you can still be a part of the community. Hopefully, we can also inspire them to go out and play a sport,” said McAuliffe.

Kerryn O’Connell, a sophomore, loves being on the Athletic Council.

“I volunteered because I thought this was a great event,” she said. “I am hoping that my being here today helped the students learn a few life lessons.”