News: MAG-39 supports Read Across America
Story by Lance Cpl. Lisa Tourtelot
VISTA, Calif. - Lance Cpl. Micheal Hollar patiently answered interview questions for young students. He told them his name, his job and even gave them his mailing address so they could be pen pals. The 2nd-grade students struggled to form the correct words in large block letters, but treated the interview with awe-struck reverence.
Hollar was one of approximately 100 Marines volunteering to read to, mentor and interact with children at Vista Academy of Visual and Performing Arts.
Marines from Marine Aircraft Group 39 gathered at the school March 4 to support Read Across America an annual celebration of reading in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday. The nation-wide event occurs in any National Education Association-supported school.
Dr. Janet Newman, a teacher at the school, explained that the goal of the event is to have every child read with a caring adult. Newman added that she has invited various units from Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton to support the celebration of reading since 2000, because she believes Marines provide positive role models for the students.
Helpful Marines manned reading-centric stations prepared by teachers in each classroom from the 1st grade through the 8th. One station challenged students to construct a bridge based on a book about bridges, while another had Marines painting children’s faces with camouflage based on camouflage books.
Hollar, a maintenance administrator with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, assisted students with interview skills - where students practiced transcribing verbal answers to the written word.
Hollar did not realize that one of his students battles a learning disability. The young boy - “Alex” - rarely writes, and when he does, it is a struggle. Hollar never noticed a difference between the students’ writing abilities while he patiently helped each one compose his answers.
When the Marine discovered the subtle difference between Alex and his peers, his eyes grew wide.
“I had no idea,” said Hollar. “Knowing how motivated he was made my day. Sometimes students just need motivation. Hopefully from now on he’ll know that he can do it.”
Maybe it was Hollar’s crisp uniform. Maybe it was his seasoned mentoring ability - the Marine grew up with a teacher for a mother and volunteers with JROTC every time he goes home. Something about Hollar struck a nerve in Alex, and drove him to put pen to paper with the eagerness of every other student for the first time.
“All students need people to look up to,” said Newman. “I love to see how the kids look at the Marines with awe, and the Marines are so open with the kids. There is no question that this is a good influence and a positive experience.”
This Read Across America event provided a positive experience for the volunteers and the students. Marines like Hollar got to be heroes for an entire school, and students like Alex found the drive to read and write - some for the first time.
For more information about Read Across America, visit www.nea.org.