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Stanwood Elementary program on TRACK

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 7:14 p.m.
Kristy Pollak
Back on TRACK will launch on Sept. 5 at Stanwood Elementary School.

Last year on Sept. 11, Kristy Pollak challenged her third-grade students at Stanwood Elementary School in the Hempfield Area School District to come up with a project to implement change as part of the nation's I Will Campaign.

She wanted her students to find a way they could make a difference.

Project MASK was born where students collected new and used clothing to give to local children in need under a project conceived by former student Margo Warnken of Hunker.

Come this September, Pollak is stepping her challenge up a notch.

Back on TRACK (Teaming up to Read, Refuel and Advance our Community Kids) will kick off Sept. 5 at Stanwood Elementary School.

It will combine reading, writing, fitness and technology. Families will leave with backpacks — donated by the New Stanton-Youngwood Rotary Club — full of healthy snacks and books for their home libraries.

Similar events will be held the first Thursday of every month.

The kick-off event will feature Zumba dancing for exercise as well as the theme, “Make Your Mark.” Activities will include a photo booth, abstract art, guest readers and creative writing.

In addition to the Rotary Club, the Lions Club and Hempfield Area School District board members have donated books to fill the backpacks.

“When you want to do something good, people want to get involved,” said Pollak, the mother of three children ranging in age from 3 to 6.

Dr. Kathy Harris, an assistant professor at Seton Hill University with a “passion for early-childhood development,” met with Pollak earlier in the summer about the program .

She said the monthly literary nights are paramount because family involvement is so important.

“She is going to reach so many families by bringing in so many multiple intelligences... ,” said Harris, who hopes her students may man a literacy or technology area.

The theory of multiple intelligences is a model that differentiates intelligence into various modalities, primarily sensory, rather than a single general ability.

Pollak “has been phenomenal in finding people in the community to support her project,” Harris said.

For Harris, partnerships for learning are really what it is all about.

Raymond Burk, principal at Stanwood Elementary School, couldn't agree more. He said after Pollak heard about a similar backpack program in Norwin, they began brainstorming.

“This first year, our hope is to provide as many opportunities as possible to parents, guardians and children to gain skills and strategies to be successful,” said Burk, who has been principal for six years.

He said the idea is to support the child's skill development and learn how to integrate it at home.

“My hope is for families to take an interest in education, learning, love of reading and more,” Pollak said. “I hope to have it be a project we can give to everyone so everyone can see the importance of an educational background with the focus not just on reading, but health and fitness as well.”

She said so many people want to get involved already and help in any way they can.

“People want to do good,” she said. “They want to be involved in something that can change the world.”

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.