June Award: Gibson County Community Foundation

Every day, members of our communities rise to meet unexpected challenges. From children to parents and from caregivers to businesses, we have all been asked to step up and become leaders. We’ve faced and pivoted to adapt and grow through our everchanging world due to unforeseen events that affect our daily lives. No action is too small, and together our impact is large.

Your actions should be recognized and celebrated. Our communities are the foundation of our society, and we stand stronger together. PLTW is proud to celebrate diverse communities and its members who exhibit collaboration, leadership, and entrepreneurship in service across the nation. As a result, we have created the PLTW Community Celebration Awards to recognize communities that have come together to care for each other in times of need. Join us in celebrating the following community this month!

Princeton Community Intermediate School, located in southwest Indiana, serves nearly four hundred students in grades 3-5 from the North Gibson School Corporation representing the communities of Princeton, Hazleton, Mt. Olympus, Patoka, and Wheeling. Many of these students begin at the school underprepared in reading due to a lack of books at home.

“To be successful, students need enormous quantities of successful reading to become independent, proficient readers,” Principal Dr. Emily Davis said. “Research shows a student who cannot read on grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate (high school) by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time. Add poverty into the equation, and a student is 13 times less likely to graduate on time than his or her proficient, wealthier peers.”

More than 57 percent of the school’s student population qualifies for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program. To help remove the barrier for a high-quality education created by poverty, the school designed a project to give students essential reading tools – high-quality fiction and nonfiction books to read during extended closures.

“Research shows one of the best ways to get better at reading is to actually read,” Emily said. “We asked our community partner the Gibson County Community Foundation for $8,000 to purchase take-home book bags for all of our students. They said yes!”

Each take-home bag contained five high-interest books. These take-home book bags are ready to go home with students when school is closed for an extended period, including winter break. Students read the books at home and then return them when school is back in session.

“Since we also know that students will read more if they can choose what they read, our teachers were wonderful by helping students pick out several of the books for their bags,” Emily said. “We sent every student home with five books to read over winter break through the Gibson County Community Foundation’s generous funding.”

Nearly all of the books were returned after the break. The school conducted a follow-up survey for parents, and they received overwhelmingly positive feedback. One parent commented on the survey, “We don’t have a ton of books that he is interested in, so him getting to pick out a few he would like to read was great!”

“We are taking the suggestion of this parent who said, ‘Do it on every break,’” Emily said.

Prior to the school’s spring break, they began planning a new wave of the project.

“As a community, we are working together to remove barriers for our students, and Dr. Harmon (superintendent), Dr. Goggins (assistant superintendent), and the North Gibson school board have been so supportive of measures like these,” Emily said. “We believe making strong readers today directly impacts making strong citizens, workers, and community leaders of tomorrow.”