Shaler Area students read to raise money for North Hills Community Outreach

| Wednesday, May 29, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler Area Elementary School students turned more than half a million words into a $1,255 donation to benefit North Hills Community Outreach through Words that Serve.

Words that Serve is a service-learning project created by AmeriCorps teachers Lauren Kruszewski, Melanie Egnacheski and Mark Mays that gave 34 fourth- through sixth-graders at Shaler Area Elementary the opportunity to collect pledges per 1,000 words read over the course of 23 days to benefit the outreach organization.

“Overall we wanted to show the students how they could take something so simple as reading to give back to the community,” said Kruszewski, of Shaler.

“A lot of kids don't have the power to do things on their own since they're younger, and this was a way for them to take ownership of reading, to help improve reading, but also they could help the community.”

Students met in the library after school two days per week to read for an hour. They stretched out between the stacks of books and propped their feet up on chairs and read silently with the goal of reaching their word total to collect the most pledge money.

“I have two brothers and it's a little hard to read at home,” sixth-grader Lelaina Thornton said. Lelaina read a total of 254,804 words and raised $90 to donate to North Hills Community Outreach.

“I wanted to raise as much money as I could,” she said. “The North Hills Community Outreach, they're helping other people in our community and we're helping them by helping (the outreach).”

Students were required to read books at their determined reading level and then take a reading-comprehension test through the Scholastic Reading Counts program to receive credit for the book and word total. The books read also were applied to the school-wide goal for each student to read 25 books per school year.

However, Mays said, the students in the Words that Serve club were just as interested in how they could help others.

“A lot of these students are willing to help other people, willing to give a hand,” said Mays, of West View. “We have a good group of people in the school.”

The students in Words that Serve club read a total of 2,886,039 words and in turn raised $1,255 for the social-service agency. When the students heard the total amount they raised, many were in shock.

“I was … wow,” said Noah Heere, a fifth-grader.

Noah joined the club with the goal of reading 100,000 words in 23 days and helping North Hills Community Outreach.

“It was insane how much money we raised overall,” he said. “I hope the people at the North Hills Community Outreach can help others.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or

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