Submitted by Julia Colbert
The education of children is a top priority. Sophomore Julia Colbert takes this matter into her own hands by having a weekly story time session with her neighborhood kids. She started this program in the summer, where the sessions happened every Tuesday for about an hour. The first thirty minutes would be reading them stories, while the last thirty would be different activities to complete. Since then, she has put on a mini-state fair in a park near her house for the children. The fair had booths and games which gave out tickets. Colbert has plans to recreate a similar event for Halloween. The number of kids that came ranged from 15-30 depending on the day. She collected all the parent’s contact information and created a group chat to update each session. Colbert advertised drawing chalk on the sidewalk.
Her favorite activity to do with the kids is to use chalk and bubbles. Her small dog, named Lola, was a connection between her and a lot of the young children. Since school has started, the times slightly changed; on Tuesday, the sessions are 10:30 a.m. -11:30 a.m., while on Thursdays, it is 3:30 p.m. -4:30 p.m. Colbert explained, “Just seeing the connection grow between the kids in the neighborhood was just heartwarming to watch.”
Colbert partnered with her neighbor, a former librarian getting the books from the Saint Paul Public Library. The program Summer Spark allows children who have read a certain amount of hours to trade in the slip of paper they recorded for a book. Colbert reads various books since each week has a theme; one week, the books were about racial issues. The children range from newborn babies to fourth graders, an even amount of boys and girls attending. There were children with different racial backgrounds visiting Hispanic, Asian, and white. She also partnered with her mailman, who taught the kids how the postal service works. The kids attending were mainly from NOVA classical academy, Highland Catholic, or Expo. Each week there was a Navajo prayer that talked about topics related to kindness and friendship.
COVID-19 canceled her original volunteer opportunity, and she understands other students, specifically, Sophomores, need volunteer hours. She opens this volunteer opportunity to all students who would like to volunteer. She said, “It was a lot of fun having my friends help this year with the mini-state fair.”
Colbert wanted to expand the program a lot more and put together larger events throughout the summer. She said, “Even if COVID isn’t affecting their lives anymore, I hope we can continue to do it.”
In the winter, Colbert hopes to continue via Zoom call and record it so she can send it out if a child has missed or couldn’t make a session.