Intel employees, SMART organizers visit HSD schools
More than 60 Intel employees were in Hillsboro School District classrooms last week sharing a book with young elementary students.
A collaboration between SMART — Start Making A Reader Today — a volunteer reading program offered to students in pre-kindergarten through the third grade in Oregon, and the Intel Foundation, students at W.L. Henry Elementary and Brookwood Elementary schools got to spend some time connecting with local community members over a book Wednesday morning, Nov. 7. The reading program is Oregon's largest volunteer literacy program, reaching more than 11,000 students annually.
"It's my 27th year in education and my 21st year in Oregon and for as long as I can remember, I've had the privilege of working at schools where we had the SMART reading program," said W.L. Henry principal Lisa Aguilar. "It's such a beautiful program and it has made a positive impact on kids for all of these years. … The beauty of it is that it's about making connections. And decades of research will show that the best way for children to learn how to read is to be read to and to be read with."
Thursday's event served as an introduction to the reading program for Intel employees — the tech company encourages its employees to volunteer in the local community with an incentive program.
"We are not teaching the students to read, that is best left to the people who actually are trained and experienced and professionals around doing that," said SMART's executive director Chris Otis to the volunteers. "What we are doing is coming into support, what we like to call sort of the soft side of the equation, in getting kids excited about reading, interested in reading … and what we want to do is build some energy, some engagement, some confidence in the kids who are in the program. It's always been what we have been about."
The program is built off of two key principles, Otis said, access to books and shared reading time. Volunteers are asked to spend a minimum of one hour a week in the classroom reading with one child, ideally on the same day, each week. And each student is gifted two books a month from the program.
"So you get a little bit of an opportunity to have a relationship develop there," she said. "They are seeing the same person, the same day, the same time, the same place, sitting down to enjoy books."
To the students it says, "I'm here for you. You matter to me. I am doing nothing but sharing books with you," Otis said.
President of the Intel Foundation, Pia Wilson-Body was also in the classroom last week reading with a student at W.L Henry.
"From my perspective, it's always good to give back and be a good corporate citizen," she said. "And just to know that these young people really need adult role-models, especially as the principal shared, (from) the community, and especially now. Building relationships with young people, and just quite frankly, meeting them where they are (is important.)"
The collaboration took place as part of an effort by Intel to have employees volunteer more than they ever have in past for its five-decade company anniversary.
"Intel is celebrating our 50th anniversary, and we took a challenge that 50,000 employees would volunteer throughout the year and not just stop there, volunteer a million hours and over," Wilson-Body said. "We traditionally volunteer close to a million, but I think we are going to blow it out the water this year. … I think it's (also) a great opportunity for employees to get out, just not for the 50th, but again be involved in the community."
Following Wednesday's reading session, each student who participated in the program got to pick out a book which they could take home and keep.
"I do want to acknowledge the (Intel) Foundation for not only supporting us in coming together, but this is book give away day," Otis said. "Across Washington County, Intel is supporting book give away day, so that's about 1,000 kids who will get a book by virtue of your support, so thank you."
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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