Lions Read initiative pairs Abington students with local elementary schools

Samuel Gonzalez, Stephanie Hildago

Samuel Gonzalez and Stephanie Hildago work at Overlook Elementary School as part of the Lions Read initiative.

Credit: Regina Broscius

ABINGTON, Pa. — Several Penn State Abington education majors are working with children at two area elementary schools through the University-wide initiative Lions Read.

Lions Read is a mentoring program designed to enhance the early reading, math and science skills of children in the communities surrounding Penn State's campuses, while providing Penn State students with the opportunity to give back, gain work experience and earn financial aid through Federal Work-Study.

Samuel Gonzalez, an elementary and early childhood education major, works with kindergarten, first, second and fourth graders at Overlook Elementary in the Abington School District, about a mile from Penn State Abington. 

“My role is working with teachers to support students who need extra attention by reinforcing lessons in small groups or even working with individual students,” he said. "My other duties include, at the teachers' request, creating lesson plans, teaching lessons and documenting student progress." 

Gonzalez, who is bilingual, also has offered academic support to Spanish-speaking students. 

“The Lions Read program has provided me with many valuable experiences,” he said. “The students and faculty are honestly a pleasure to work with and truly make me feel a part of the school community at Overlook.” 

Junior Stephanie Hidalgo serves at Overlook, too, providing assistance in math and reading.

“I have worked with students who are English-language learners and students who are behind or under grade level,” she said. “I am getting experience in classroom management and teaching content even if it is with a small group of students.” 

“My role is working with teachers to support students who need extra attention by reinforcing lessons in small groups or working with individual students.”

— Samuel Gonzalez, senior elementary and early childhood education major

Senior Sue Brown takes Lions Read on the road each week to Anne Frank Elementary in northeast Philadelphia, where she works with second and third graders. 

“Currently, I am helping to support oral reading fluency and comprehension for students who just need a little push to get to grade level," she said. "I have been working with them on what you do in reading when you see quotation marks and punctuation, such as how does a person sound when they are saying something that ends with an exclamation point? Understanding which character is speaking and how they are expressing their thoughts can support fluency." 

Brown has helped teachers administer tests that pertain to literacy as well as supporting comprehension in math.

"Most of the time I am pulling students in pre-assigned small groups, but some of the time I am pushing in and supporting what is happening in the classroom,” she said. 

“I am very passionate about this program, and not only do I feel it is beneficial for teacher candidates to hone their craft, but I also think it is an excellent resource for our partnership schools," Brown added. 

About Penn State Abington

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st century public higher education within a world-class research university. With about 3,700 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 21 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer honors program, NCAA Division III athletics and more.