February 24, 2014

Reading room opens in Promise Neighborhood

 As reported in La Prensa, new Ben Carson Reading Room at George Washington Carver STEM School in the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood officially opened February 19, bringing 700 new books to the elementary school. The reading area, one of 88 Carson Reading rooms around the country and the first in Ohio, was funded by the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and developed in collaboration with the Ben Carson Reading Project.

Carson, recently retired after a career as a neurosurgeon, and his wife have focused their philanthropic efforts on improving reading and “encouraging young people to excel academically,” he said in a pre-recorded video address played before the opening of the reading room. “With a book and your imagination, you can travel the world,” he said.

Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland President Susanna Krey echoed that idea, noting that the foundation had Carson speak at its 15th anniversary in 2011, when the collaboration with the Ben Carson Reading Project was first announced. “I'm delighted there are so many great books here for you,” she told the students. “As you travel through those books, new worlds will open to you.”

As young students settled into beanbag chairs to read, George Washington Carver Principal Stephanie Eafford said, “That's what this is all about. We're so honored to have this at our school, where we know our students must increase their scores and where most of our students have some difficulties with reading. We're hoping that Dr. Carson, whose mother had him read two books a week and do book reports on them, is the model for our students, that they would love to come to this beautiful place and increase in their reading abilities and become lifelong learners.”

After Cleveland Metropolitan School District Chief Executive Officer Eric Gordon and representatives from the Sisters of Charity Foundation cut the ribbon, Gordon read a book, Where the Wild Things Are, to a group of children, parents, community partners and school officials.

Gordon thanked the students “for making Carver a better and better school every day” and noted that one student in the auditorium had not stopped reading a book even during a half-dozen speeches before the ribbon cutting.

He also complimented teachers at Carver, noting that the hallways were lined with student artwork, essays and other materials related to Dr. Carson. Gordon also thanked Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland and other partners.

The reading room, originally announced in 2011 to be located in a Central neighborhood school, is part of an overall commitment to the area by the foundation. That commitment to the Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood initiative was bolstered last month when the Ohio Department of Education awarded the foundation a $500,000 grant over the next two years.

The Cleveland Central Neighborhood Promise initiative is a transformative program that wraps children in high-quality, coordinated health, social, community and educational support from the cradle to college and career.

Gordon reminded everyone that transforming a school and a community is an active, not a static, thing.

“Partners, if this is your first time here, it cannot be your last,” he said. “We have to do this together. We will not achieve the goals we want, and that our children deserve, if we do not do this together.”

The Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, which is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, is the lead Promise Neighborhood partner. 

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