CHICAGO- Energetic students from Benjamin E. Mays Elementary Academy on Chicago’s Southside received a break from their normal class schedule Friday, April 25. About 75 volunteers through Comcast showed up with books to read to the kindergarten through 3rd graders, as well as pass out healthy snacks.
“The food affects how children learn and their concentration in the classroom so having Comcast come today to talk about healthy food and healthy living is very important in this community [and] I’m thrilled that they’re here; we encourage this kind of activity,” Principal Patricia McCann said.
The pre-event was part of Comcast Cares Day, which is a corporate volunteer initiative that has taken place around the world since 2001. This year, corporate officials expected more than 7,000 employees to participate from Illinois, Northwest Indiana and southwest Michigan throughout the region. Locally, the company had nine projects going on this past weekend, including cleaning and painting at DuSable Museum of African American History, graffiti removal and gardening at the Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council, and painting and construction at Genevieve Melody STEM School.
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“I think it’s enlightening and fun for [the students] especially if they’re from this area,” said Ronda Davis, an employee of the company. “It shows people give back and are willing to spend time with them,” she said.
Davis read “From Head to Toe” by Eric Carle with her group of third graders, engaging them by asking questions and having them mimic the characters in the book, which is an interactive book that encourages children to copy the animal characters’ body movements– a way to provide them with fun, healthy exercise options.
Each classroom was assigned five volunteers, four of them read books to each small group of students, and the fifth volunteer made sure everything ran smoothly.
Whitney Hundley, a volunteer who came with her cousin who works for Comcast, said that she was unsure of how the day would go, but once she saw how enthused and engaged the children were, she relaxed. This project was worth her time, she said.
“Some of these kids, all they see is shooting and killing, nothing positive, but now they can go home and say mom, they read to us,” Hundley said.
Stephen Thomas, the vice president of Field Operations for the city of Chicago and the northern suburbs, came down to the event ready to lead. He said Care Day is important for the company because it sends a positive message to the world.
“It’s to show that we’re not just a cable service provider, we’re a part of the community,‘ he said. “This is our chance to take off our suits and ties, put on our green shirts and do projects whether it be reading, painting, writing, mentoring, tutoring, something that will have a long standing impact on the community, so our goal today is to touch the lives of children.”