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Loyola honors students help young children become first-time authors

Loyola press release - December 10, 2014

Imagine becoming a published author in first-grade. With the help of the Portz Grant from the National Collegiate Honors Council, students in the University Honors Program at Loyola University New Orleans will volunteer to help first-graders write their own published books.

The University Honors Program was awarded the Portz Grant to support their tutoring program, "Mission Imprint." Starting in January, volunteers from the program will work with children at Renew Cultural Arts Academy to write their own books for 10 weeks. The grant will pay for the books to be printed. The grant will also cover transportation costs for the students to come to Loyola for a writer’s celebration once they finish the books in late April.

"Mission Imprint" is a literacy program for students at the Renew Cultural Arts Academy, a New Orleans charter school that serves children from highly disadvantaged backgrounds. The goal of the program is to increase literacy in the city of New Orleans by encouraging a love of reading in early elementary students through tutoring, book ownership and writing, and the mentorship of motivated and encouraging honors students. The goal is to also create a community relationship between Renew Cultural Arts Academy and the Loyola University Honors Program.

"Our program seeks to empower the children served by helping them to see themselves as published writers," Naomi Yavneh Klos, Ph.D., the university honors program director, said.

Honors students envisioned this program based on their own experiences. Many trace their academic success to the love of reading cultivated in childhood as they continue their learning.

"I think as a college student who is constantly learning about the world’s issues and the needs of the community around us, it is hard to sit idly by without helping in some form," Shravya Sanagala, junior psychology honors student and returning volunteer for the program, said. "The opportunity to hone their writing skills while promoting literary creativity with the Portz Grant is an exciting prospect."

Since the college experience is different for a lot of people, students feel that they have a lot to offer to the young kids and can be positive role models for them.

"I think this type of program is important because college students are a unique group of people," Rachel Comeaux, leader of the program and junior sociology honors student, said. "Because of our age and life experience thus far, most college students are generally energetic, passionate, and optimistic. These characteristics are perfect for working with all children, but especially those who could particularly benefit from a driven and positive role model."

The National Collegiate Honors Council's Portz Grant is intended to support Honors program/college innovation and are awarded to Honors programs/colleges (not to individuals) to help them engage in program innovation.

For more information, contact Klos at 504-864-7330.