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Columbia Power Lunch Partners Celebrate Two Years of Reading Books at P.S. 125

By Lauren Marshall

Columbia Power Lunch partners celebrate reading and friendship.

For some of the children, the Columbia Power Lunch was the first time they had set foot on the Columbia campus. For others, it was their second time to celebrate a year of reading and friendship made possible by Columbia Power Lunch volunteers.

The end of the year event attracted more than 200 people, including students from P.S. 125, the Harlem elementary school just a few blocks north of campus, and the Columbia staff and students who spent one hour a week reading with them. As a large screen projected photos with the smiling faces of students and their Columbia mentors taken over the course of the year, the Power Lunch reading pairs were able to focus on something other than a book -- pizza and ice cream. In a mock graduation ceremony, awards for service were presented to each volunteer, who encouraged their young partners to walk up to the stage with them.

"Columbia has long had an interest in being a positive force in the neighborhood and in improving its relationship with the community," said Colleen Crooker, vice president for Columbia human resources at the awards ceremony. "And as I look around this room, it is very clear that we have made progress within our gates and beyond."

"Everybody Wins" in the Columbia Power Lunch Program.

Columbia University became involved in the national Everybody Wins program as a way to connect with and make a tangible contribution to the children who were going to school just yards away from campus. The University adopted P.S. 125, at 123rd Street and Amsterdam Avenue, a school already participating in the Everybody Wins program, as the Columbia Power Lunch program site. Through the outreach efforts led by Columbia human resources director Charmaine Blue, more than 150 volunteers were recruited in the first year, which boosted the number of volunteer readers at the school from 20 to more than 180.

"Today all our schedules are jam-packed but giving back to the community, especially our work community, is so important. I know because of the numbers of volunteers who thank me for bringing them into this program and for the students, who are always full of energy, enthusiasm, appreciation and receive us with open arms," said Blue. "To me, the greatest thing that Columbia volunteers bring to P.S. 125 is our diversity -- racial, ethnic, economical and educational."

Blue further strengthened Columbia's relationship with the school by organizing a book drive to fill the bookcases of the Everybody Wins/Power Lunch classroom, which was dedicated earlier this year by the school for the sole purpose of student reading. This year, the second drive yielded more than 1,300 books, which were donated to P.S. 125 and two other Upper Manhattan public schools: P.S. 136 and I.S. 95.

According to reading program coordinators at the school, a large number of students are interested in participating, but there are not enough volunteers. Columbia Power Lunch is seeking additional volunteers to respond to the student demand in the new academic year. Those interested in reading with an elementary student, grades 3 to 5, beginning in September should contact Charmaine Blue at: everybodywins@columbia.edu

Published: Jun 05, 2002
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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