Ayanna Mitchell and Principal Terri Koehler during Tuesday’s presentation
POTTSTOWN PA – Pottsgrove Middle School Student Ayanna Mitchell received $500 Tuesday night (Jan. 12, 2015) for doing what she loves: reading, and helping others enjoy it as much as she does.
Mitchell was one of hundreds of youngsters across the country who last year applied for a grant through a contest conducted by Youth Service America (YSA), a national non-profit organization that encourages children to be active in their communities. Its Summer of Creativity grant program awarded cash to selected applicants who helped “make their community greener, safer, smarter, healthier, cleaner, or fairer,” its website said
The word “smarter” attracted Mitchell’s attention, West Pottsgrove Elementary School Principal Terri Koehler explained, as she presented a smiling Ayanna with her award check.
Mitchell, with Koehler’s support, created what she called “Ayanna and Timmy’s Summer Reading Club.” She invited children in her neighborhood to her home last summer weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. to “identify reading strengths and weaknesses. We then work(ed) to strengthen those weaknesses without the child being embarrassed about it,” according to her grant entry.
No, Ayanna didn’t write that; YSA asked parents, teachers and other adults to help her and fellow applicants create their submissions. The ideas were hers, though. She found ways to inspire readers in grades K-4, including some West Pottsgrove students, Principal Koehler said.
Mitchell was motivated, according to the application, by experiences she encountered in her middle school classes. “I started this program after seeing people in my middle school struggle with reading and math in class and being embarrassed because of it,” it stated. “These students often become trouble makers in school before soon giving up completely and dropping out.”
YSA was suitably impressed. It chose Mitchell’s proposal as one of only nine awarded in Pennsylvania, and besides the check labeled her as a “young change-maker.”
Members of Ayanna’s family were on hand in the West Pottsgrove school auditorium when Koehler presented the prize during the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ meeting.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ Jan. 12 meeting):