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Shaler Area students read to reach out, help community

By Bethany Hofstetter
Wednesday, June 4, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Shaler Area Elementary Students have out read themselves to benefit the North Hills Community Outreach.

Thirty students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade collected pledges for words read during a 24-day period to benefit the nonprofit organization through the Words that Serve program, now in its second year.

The students donated $1,287 for the 3,383,039 words read in less than a month, surpassing last year's totals.

“I really like this idea of community and connecting with the school,” said Lauren Kruszewski, fourth- and fifth-grade math support teacher and Keystone SMILES AmeriCorps member who launched the program last year.

“I think it's important to understand the community and connect it with the school. Students don't realize how easy it is to help the community.”

Students met after school several times during the 24 days to read together in the library as well as read on their own. Students read a variety of books and then took reading-comprehension tests 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.

“I really wanted (to reach) 1 million words,” said Autumn Roney, a sixth-grader, who participated in Words that Serve. “It was extra time I could read my book.”

Roney received encouragement from her friend, sixth-grader Stephanie Bodner, and the Words that Serve group.

“It feels good,” Roney said. “I made a difference in their life (clients served by North Hills Community Outreach) by doing something I enjoy.”

Roney was recognized at the end of the program for the most words read, at 527,040. Fourth-grader Austin Zillweger was recognized for the most books read, at 19, and fifth-grader William Borza was recognized for raising the most money for the outreach, totaling $169.

“I felt good because I got to help some people who can't afford food, and it was easy,” Zillweger said.

Kruszewski said she decided to offer the Words that Serve program again because of its success last year.

“A lot of students really enjoyed doing it last year, and I thought it would be fun to challenge them to read more and raise more money,” Kruszewski said, adding that the students accomplished both goals.

“What better way to promote reading and become better readers … (while) they're also helping their community.”

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



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