Kiwanis Club fosters love of reading

Published 2:58 pm Saturday, May 6, 2023

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LAPLACE — Fourth graders at Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School in Reserve took home prizes including new bikes, backpacks and gift cards to Airborne Extreme at the conclusion of a Read-a-thon coordinated by the Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes.

Students were encouraged to fall in love with reading by choosing their own books and reading at their own pace over a two-month period. Students who read at least five books were eligible for individual awards, while the class that read the most books will enjoy a step-by-step art demonstration through the Young Rembrandts program.

The four students who read the most books were Anali Gallegos with 45, Kirian Bonilla with 25, Josiah Henderson with 20, and Luis Mejia with 10. Other award recipients were Journee Essex, Kennedy Robert and Dolores Hernandez.

Fourth grade teacher Leanne Lebouef said the prizes were a great motivator for this age group.

“An extra motivator was that they were able to choose their books. We have a large classroom library. They were motivated to read during their free time and at home. Even my students who don’t love to read were excited to have the choice,” Lebouef said. “It was an individual and a group effort since there were also classroom awards, and the kids were excited for each other.”

Karla Morris, education chair for Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes, said every book a child reads is a win.

“Literacy is so important. Especially after COVID and Ida, these kids are really delayed in reading, so anything we can do to encourage them to read and grow to love reading is great,” she said.

Students at Ethel Schoeffner Elementary in St. Charles Parish also participated in the Read-a-thon for a chance to win prizes.

The Read-a-thon is just one way Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes has impacted the community in recent weeks. On April 22, Kiwanis members once again partnered with East St. John High School to help organize a special education prom for students who would not otherwise enjoy a traditional prom experience.

This year, Kiwanis reached out to QHotels in LaPlace, opening the door for nine very special young ladies to have their hair and makeup done by volunteers at the Hampton Inn conference room in LaPlace ahead of the prom.

“It’s good to partner with the businesses in St. John Parish to fulfill a need for those young ladies. They were so excited about their hair and makeup,” said Dayna James, president of the Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes. “We are family now. It’s an annual thing that we want to do. I’ve had professional hair stylists reach out and say they want to be a part of it next year. Every year it’s growing.”

The same weekend, Kiwanis Club of Tri Parishes held its first Spring Mimosa Festival fundraiser at 321 events in LaPlace. Kiwanis member Lachandra Morris, owner of 321 Events, supported the event along with Louisiana’s River Parishes Tourist Commission, Matherne’s, Winn-Dixie and other local businesses. All 12 VIP tables sold out, and approximately 200 people were in attendance to raise money for the Kiwanis Club’s efforts in supporting local students.

According to James, the second annual College & Career Fair is in the works, and the Kiwanis Club would like to start offering scholarships to local students.

Members have already committed to spreading awareness of other scholarship opportunities in the region.

“We spoke to Superintendent Rebecca Johnson when she was our speaker at our meeting in St. John Parish, and we asked her what she needed and what we can do to help with the kids. She mentioned that she needs help getting kids to start filling out those scholarships that the local businesses are offering,” James said.

Along with East St. John’s Alumni Association, the Kiwanis members met with seniors one-on-one. Klara Morris, who also represents Junior Achievement, taught students how to correctly fill out job applications.

The group also visited West St. John High School this past week for mock job interviews along with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office.