United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, in partnership with ABB Inc., has launched a new volunteer reader program in Westmoreland County in an effort to increase classroom learning opportunities and build stronger business-to-community partnerships throughout the region.
The program brings volunteers from ABB to Mt. Pleasant Area School District’s Rumbaugh Elementary School for hour-long reading sessions with over 80 kindergarten students. Sessions began January 25 and will continue bi-weekly through April 5.
“This project is all about getting high quality early reading materials and learning opportunities into the hands of our students,” said United Way’s education program manager Jesse Sprajcar. “While our colleagues in Allegheny County have been running similar business-to-community programs for several years, this project is the first of its kind for us here in Westmoreland and we’re excited to see the impact the model can make in our schools and communities.”
During each session, volunteers read aloud to students and help lead a book-related interactive project. At the session’s conclusion, volunteers present each student with their own book and a copy for the classroom’s library, donated by United Way.
All session books are high-quality children’s literature titles, including the Caldecott Medal Winner and New York Times Bestseller The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend and the Giesel Award winning A Big Guy Took My Ball!
As part of the program, ABB also donated $1,200 worth of school supplies to Rumbaugh’s four kindergarten classrooms, replenishing inventories that are often low by the school year’s mid-point.
ABB first approached United Way with a student reading project proposal in the summer of 2016, and was instrumental in developing the concept into a robust, measurable and scalable volunteer program.
“ABB is a strong supporter of community giving, and we are thrilled to kick start this program in Westmoreland County”, said Greg Callahan, VP and General Manager of ABB’s Mt. Pleasant manufacturing facility.
“Helping to build a foundation of literacy and participation skills in young students, and providing needed supplies where there is a shortage, is gratifying. We are thankful that our relationship with United Way brought this program to life.”
“We couldn’t have asked for a better collaboration and it really represents what United Way does best,” said Sprajcar. “By tapping into our network of partners and community knowledge, we connected someone - in this case a great company - who had the passion and resources to make an impact, with someone who needed the help. And now we all benefit – the volunteers, the students, their families, the teachers and the school.”
Though still in its infancy, the program has eyes on expansion based on initial positive results.
“This program makes literature come to life in the classrooms. It gives the students a personal experience with a book and builds relationships with positive role models in the business world,” said Rumbaugh Elementary School principal Lance Benteler.
“This partnership is a critical step towards bridging the gap between our area’s schools and the workplace,” said Sprajcar. “We hope the success of this project will encourage other companies in our service area to work more closely with United Way and local schools, to enhance early literacy opportunities as well as workforce development on a K-12 level.”