By Chris Brudzynski, (in association with School Partners Productions)
Over the past month, several Denver Public School classrooms have been filled with books and a buzz about reading – and these aren’t the only things filling the classrooms. Hundreds of volunteers from a number of organizations across the Denver Metro area have enthusiastically joined the Power Lunch Reading program, and are now dedicating forty-five minutes a week to reading with a DPS student. They’re actively inspiring their reading buddies to develop a love of reading this year, because well, books are awesome.
We’re happy to welcome volunteers from National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) back to Columbian Elementary for another year of Power Lunch, or as they call it, “Read with Me,” considering they also have a program with the same title. Virgil Green, a tight end for the Denver Broncos, has also graciously committed to attending Power Lunch every Tuesday at Columbian – the students are very excited read with him. On our first day of Power Lunch, students, volunteers, and Ms. Morris lined up to take a group photo with Virgil. After providing a joyful, yet reserved smile for the first photo, we all let it loose for the second photo when Virgil interjected, saying, “this is Power Lunch, right? Let’s all flex those muscles!” Now, students will get to flex their brain muscles too, as they continue reading with their buddies each week.
Ashford University, DPS Cares, and Buckley Air Force Base are all participating in their fourth year of Power Lunch this school year. Each of these groups exudes a passion for education that is truly amazing. It’s been a pleasure to witness the connections they’ve made with their students. Michael Hickman, a DPS Cares volunteer, gives his buddy, Keyshawn, a fist bump before they read on Fridays. Sakhadi Cebrun, an Ashford volunteer, exclaims, “I’m so excited, this is my favorite part of the week,” as we wait for the bus to take us to Harrington Elementary on Wednesdays. We thank these volunteer groups so much for their continued commitment to the program, because we’re quite sure that Power Lunch is some of the students’ favorite part of the week, too.
The first day of Power Lunch overflows with joy and excitement as volunteers and their student buddies partner up and begin getting to know each other. Before volunteers arrive, each student is given a card with the picture of an animal on it. And simultaneously, while volunteers are entering the room, they are given a card with the corresponding animal word. It’s difficult to explain the thrill I experienced when I heard, “the next student up is Wellson, and he has a…Cheetah!”
“Cheetah! Yeah, that’s me!” I proclaimed.
Immediately, we had a fun surprise and the connection of a common, in this case very fast and cool, animal to make us feel more comfortable. Although in my excitement, I did have to remind myself that I was in fact the adult. But this is the beauty of Power Lunch. Through this program we can shed our titles, accomplishments, and differences, and truly rejoice and respect the timelessness of not only books, but of human relationships.