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Community Outreach: UAlbany Students Jumpstart Reading Program

March 31, 2008

Nakia Hamlett with readers in the after-school program

Nakia Hamlett, back row, second from left, a third-year doctoral student in clinical psychology, was among the UAlbany students who helped to start a successful after-school reading program at Delaware Community School. (Photo, courtesy of Cheryl Frye)

In classrooms at an inner-city elementary school in Albany, kids are buzzing about reading. Thanks to a group of UAlbany students, the children are becoming even better readers through their successful after-school program.

The program sparked from a reading session that students, in UAlbany Professor Cheryl Frye’s graduate psychology course in neuroscience, conducted at Delaware Community School in Albany last spring. The session focused on stories about the brain.

"They came away saying it was the most rewarding 60 minutes they had spent in their lives because the children were like sponges and loved the experience," said Frye, who, as a member of the elementary school’s administrative committee, gained the OK to strategize an after-school reading program.

Several UAlbany psych students, energized by the experience of reading to children, took it a step further and created a 12-week, after-school reading mentoring program for pre-K through fifth-grade students. In addition, the students gained practical experience by analyzing the program’s effectiveness.

"I am a strong advocate of education and also passionate about helping children in underserved communities. It was rewarding to see the children develop a love for reading," said Nakia Hamlett of New Haven, Conn., a third-year doctoral student in clinical psychology. As an educational bonus, the creation of the course also enhances Hamlett’s research at UAlbany's Promoting Positive Youth Development in Diverse Contexts Research Lab.

The elementary school children logged 65 hours of reading time with volunteers. The volunteers worked with more than 100 students, or 25 percent of the school, in the pilot program that ran through November. In addition to the UAlbany grad students, teachers and professionals from the school, the PTA, and other volunteers all contributed time and logistics, making it a truly community-driven experience.

And the UAlbany students' program lives on. "The school," Frye said, "agreed to continue the program with regular staff members, so this is a huge success story."

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