The Schumacher Dealerships of Delray started participating in the Delray Reads initiative last year and after just one experience with what the entire campaign stands for, it was, without question, a no-brainer to continue supporting the cause.
When it comes to grade-level reading, there are few things of more importance. Statistics show that if children don’t learn to read by third grade, they have little chance of beating the odds … the odds that determine their future. Children who have books at home and who read during the summer do better in school. Point blank. But for many of the children in Delray Beach who attend the high-poverty schools, they don’t have books to read during the summer.
So, Delray Beach started Delray Reads Day … a community-wide event designed to support the Delray Beach Campaign for Grade-Level Reading by bringing community leaders and residents into area schools to learn more about how they can help the schools and students. It’s a great way for everyone in the area to get involved with what goes on in our school systems and as a company who believes in education wholeheartedly, it’s a day we thoroughly enjoy being a part of.
Similar to last year, Delray Reads Day was a day that many of us expected to go into the morning introduction ceremony at the Old School Square Gymnasium with a smile on our faces and a positive attitude. Fortunately, many of us did, but after moments of feeling bubbly and carefree, a student took the stage to speak about how education, particularly reading, has changed her life. Smiles and laughs turned into quivering lips and tears almost instantly.
This girl who spoke is a student at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach. She moved to Delray from Haiti following a tragic earthquake she witnessed take the lives of her friends and family. When she moved here, she had hope that she would make a better life, but it was the exact opposite. She said her life became worse.
She was ridiculed and made fun of for the way she spoke, dressed, looked, and smelled … she was bullied about everything. The bullying became so bad that she admitted she would cut herself to try to mask the pain she felt inside … A young girl cutting herself … resorting to intentional, self-inflicted abuse because she could no longer face the pain her peers were putting her through … This is heartbreaking.
How people can bully and live with themselves and how their parents do nothing about it is beyond us and something we won’t ever be able to comprehend … but this young lady beat the odds when she was fortunate enough to have a teacher step in. A teacher … an educator … a mentor … someone who has no legal obligation to this child, yet felt compelled to make a difference in her life. This teacher helped the young lady with all of her subjects, but particularly with reading. She encouraged this girl to go after all that she desired and was there for her during the process.
The young girl who was once so far behind in education and self-love, now sits at a 3.9 GPA, is in a leadership position in several school committees and will be attending UCF next fall to major in Engineering. When she told her story, we were completely blown away … and so were the other hundred people who were wiping their eyes while simultaneously attempting to participate in the standing ovation.
What this world fails to understand is that for one, we’ve got kids being bullied, and what’s worse are the kids doing the bullying … but on a bigger scale, we’ve got kids out in this world who resort to intentional, self-inflicted pain to hide bigger problems they think they have to face alone. The only thing the young girl ever wanted was a better life. This girl has more strength than you and I combined, yet at one point, felt so weak.
We’ve got children who hear 30-million more words …THIRTY MILLION MORE WORDS … by the time they reach first grade than some children hear in a lifetime. What we should also understand is that criminal statistics can be determined by whether or not we, or our children, learn to read by third grade … Third grade …
So while you and your family may go on a vacation this summer and read road signs and fancy restaurant menus, there are children on the streets who go all day without eating … who are left in front of a TV with a babysitter or a neighbor while mom or dad either works more than one job, backing up everything about education being important so you can work one job that financially supports your family instead of three to five, or they’re involved in more serious legal circumstances.
No child … NO CHILD should have to grow up feeling as though they don’t matter. Sometimes, the only person that child has is a teacher … an educator … someone who understands the importance of education and will do anything to get the job done.
After the emotional speech by the brave ACHS student, we went to read at our school of choice. We chose Plumosa School of the Arts … a school consumed by 80% of children who are on free or reduced lunches and 12% who choose to attend the school for a better education.
Our book was Tikki Tikki Tembo and we read to Mrs. Capana’s 5th grade class … and after just moments of entering the classroom, it was love at first sight. The class was filled with championship football players and basketball players who have dreams of playing professionally … computer whizzes who want to work for Apple … dancers who intend on applying to Julliard … TV production students who want to work for CNN … These classes are filled with students who have dreams … who have talent … who at such a young age need all the education and support they can get … but the unfortunate statistic is that some or most of those children go home at night with no mom or dad to read them bedtime stories … no hot meal at a dinner table talking about current events … no healthy breakfast in the morning with some words of wisdom to help seize the day.
We were inspired by educators and children that day in a way we’ve never experienced before. Third graders asking for an extra book so they can give it to their brother or sister … fifth graders smiling at the sight of having someone read to them … teachers coming together to help make today a special day for so many who may never get to experience it again.
We take so many things for granted, but education is at the core. Without education, we are nothing and without educators who truly love what they do and truly seek to make a difference in a child’s life, we can’t progress.
Delray Reads Day was about changing the life of a child who may otherwise end up helpless like the Atlantic High School student once was. But today, the children and teachers changed us … they forever changed our lives.
The ultimate goal was to help raise awareness and enough money to provide summer reading materials to the students in need in Delray Beach. This year, everyone is hoping they raised enough money to buy books for the kindergarten students at Pine Grove, Orchard View and Plumosa School of the Arts because for many, the books the students receive from Delray’s campaign are the first ones they can call their own.
As part of this effort, Schumacher Subaru of Delray donated 25 books to the kindergarten class of Plumosa School of the Arts, 25 to the first grade, 25 to the second grade and 25 to the third grade, for a total of 100 books in the names of 100 of our Subaru customers.
Schumacher Auto Group has been in business for more than 40 years, but is new to Delray … is new to the culture of this City. So, in an effort for us to learn about and be a part of the culture of the city, we donated an additional 40 Delray Beach pop-up story books to the Plumosa School of the Arts library in hopes that the gifted children at Plumosa will get to know the history and culture behind this city in a fun, memorable way, at the same time we do. We also donated a baby grand piano to the music department so that children can learn to read music, too.
It is with great pleasure we were able to provide books to the students, but more importantly, it was a great way to raise awareness for the nation-wide initiative. Delray Beach deserves some recognition when it comes to this campaign and we want to give it to em’.
For more information on how you can help with Delray Reads Day and related initiatives, please visit http://www.delrayreads.org/.