Athletes from Seven Colleges Share Game Plan for Inspiring Youngsters

Student athletes and staff members fan out Nov. 5 to Rochester schools for ‘Giant Read’

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A. Sue Weisler

Kevin Rattigan, a fourth-year international studies student, reads to a first-grader at John Williams School No. 5 at the Nov. 5 Giant Read. Rattigan, a member of the RIT men’s lacrosse team and a regular volunteer at School No. 5 came up with the idea to expand the program to include other area colleges.

Student athletes are the best examples of how hard work and a love for learning lead to success both in and out of the classroom.

Nearly 400 athletes from seven area colleges and universities along with their library staffs will team up Nov. 5 with seven Rochester city elementary schools to illustrate the impact of reading at the Giant Read.

The Giant Read is a signature event of the READ: Hope in Action program created by Rochester Institute of Technology in 2007.

Thanks to a grant from the John F. Wegman Fund, the Giant Read has been expanded for the first time to include other universities and colleges. Monroe Community College, Nazareth College, Roberts Wesleyan College, St. John Fisher College, State University College at Brockport and University of Rochester will join RIT.

The Giant Read happens simultaneously at seven elementary schools from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Nov. 5. All seven Rochester elementary schools are approximately within a five-mile radius.

Below is a list of the colleges and their respective elementary schools:

• RIT visits John Williams School No. 5, 555 N. Plymouth Ave.

• MCC visits Children’s School No. 15, 494 Averill Ave.

• UR visits John Walton Spencer School No. 16, 321 Post Ave.

• Roberts Wesleyan visits Enrico Fermi School No. 17, 158 Orchard St.

• St. John Fisher visits General Elwell S. Otis School No. 30, 36 Otis St.

• SUNY Brockport visits Theodore Roosevelt School No. 43, 1305 Lyell Ave.

• Nazareth College visits Flower City School No. 54, 311 Flower City Park.

For the Giant Read, each university and college is paired with a city elementary school, and students will read a book of their choice to first graders in the respective schools’ gymnasiums. Each of the seven elementary schools has about 75 first graders, and all of the students will get to keep their copy of the book. Several of the colleges will have their mascots on hand, including RIT’s Ritchie the Tiger, Brockport’s Ellsworth the Golden Eagle, St. John Fisher’s Cardinal and Rocky the Yellowjacket from UR. The mascots will join in with the volunteers following the read to play games with the kids.

RIT obtained a grant from the John F. Wegman Fund through the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The idea to reach out to the other area colleges to participate was that of Kevin Rattigan, a fourth-year international studies student and a member of the RIT men’s lacrosse team. Rattigan visits School No. 5 weekly to work with students.

“I wanted other student athletes and school children to discover the sense of fulfillment I get from volunteering,” says Rattigan. “Before I started participating in this program, I had never volunteered nor had I ever thought of it. The first time I went to School No. 5, I loved it. It is amazing to see how much RIT’s presence impacts the children.”

In addition to the Giant Read event, each college and university will host its “adopted” elementary school’s sixth-grade class next spring. The sixth graders will participate in an on-campus tour, lunch, games and a question and answer session in which the athletes engage the sixth graders about the college experience. The grant provides more than 500 books for the first graders to keep, school supplies for the sixth graders, bus transportation and lunches.

READ: Hope in Action was launched in 2007 under the vision of Chandra McKenzie, RIT assistant provost of academic affairs, in collaboration with Lou Spiotti, RIT director of athletics and recreation. The program partners RIT’s Wallace Center staff and student athletes with elementary school children to give them assistance in the classroom. For the past three years, RIT has partnered with John Williams School No. 5, a pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade elementary school.