CHILDREN AND VOLUNTEERS combine to read and feed while participating in Everybody Wins! Iowa’s Power Lunch Week. Photo: Laura Wittren
What do the children at St. Theresa’s like best about Power Lunch? It’s fun, hardly noisy and they have grown-ups to help. Not to mention the free books they get to take home with them to celebrate Power Lunch Week.
Power Lunch Week was sponsored by Everybody Wins! Iowa, a program designed to aid children in reading and help raise overall literacy rates. About 160,000 Iowans are considered illiterate today.
The celebration was from Oct. 25 to Oct. 29. Everybody Wins! Iowa handed out 2,000 books for kids to keep and thanked the 400 volunteers for their support. They visited five different Des Moines schools, including St. Theresa’s School and Windsor Elementary.
At St. Theresa’s School, the kids wiggled in their seats as Whitney Longnecker with Everybody Wins! Iowa spoke to the volunteers for a few minutes. Their eyes were focused on the collection of books on the table as they waited for the small speech to end.
They tried to leap from their seats when the speech ended and had to be reminded to calmly walk to the table in an orderly fashion. They crowded around the table, analyzed each book and showed the ones they picked to their mentors.
Originally, the kids were supposed to take only three books, but Whitney told them to take as many as they want from the remaining books. Many of the kids don’t have a lot of books to read at home, and they were very excited to be able to own new books.
After the table was nearly bare, the kids took their new books back to their tables with their mentors to finish lunch and read together.
Windsor Elementary has a total of 60 children involved in the Everybody Wins! Iowa program. The process was more organized at Windsor Elementary because there were more kids present. Kids could take four books home with them after they finished their lunches. With their mentors by their sides, they searched vigorously through the many boxes filled with picture books and chapter books.
When the kids had the four books they wanted, they returned to their tables to read and talk with their mentors. Some mentors read to the kids, but a few of the older kids read to their mentors. Melissa Ikeljic was one who read to her mentor.
Melissa is a fifth-grader at Windsor Elementary. She has participated in the Power Lunch program for two years now, and although she can read very well, she still chooses to attend Power Lunch.
“It’s fun and I like to learn,” she said.
Carylann Mucha volunteers for Power Lunch at Windsor Elementary. She’s assisted her child for about a month now and is learning a lot about the girl she’s been paired with.
Colton Davis, a Drake student, volunteers with the Power Lunch program. He began mentoring because he really likes kids and he wanted to be a good mentor.
“You can really teach them a lot about goals and aspirations,” he said, “It gives them opportunity to grow and expand and learn from someone with a different background.” He also said he could be a friend to them.
The kids aren’t the only people benefiting Power Lunch. Colton feels he benefits from the program too by mentoring a child.
“These kids have just as much on me as I do on them,” he said.