FHSU receives grant to help fund service-learning project at local elementary school

The Department of Teacher Education at Fort Hays State University has been awarded an $18,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation's Recognition Grants program to fund a service-learning project with lessons that promote empathy, respect and appreciation of differences through reading children's literature.

The grant will help integrate social-emotional learning into an already successful after school literacy program, Read4Respect developed by the Anti-Defamation League, at Washington Elementary school.

"Currently, undergraduate students from the Department of Teacher Education provide research-based reading interventions to at-risk, struggling readers during an after school literacy tutoring program," said Dr. Valerie Zelenka (pronounced zuh-LEN-kuh), project director and assistant professor of teacher education at FHSU. "This literacy intervention program has been in existence for a few years and continues to grow in success and popularity."

The National Association of School Psychologists, said Zelenka, reports that bullying is "the most common form of violence in society." Research indicates that bullying affects 70 to 80 percent of all school children in the United States, and prevalence rates are rising.

"The Read4Respect program will provide us with the framework to promote social-emotional development together with literacy development. We are very excited about this opportunity to better serve the children in our community," said Zelenka.

Elementary students are allowed to keep their books and are encouraged to create a home library and share their reading experiences with those around them. At the end of the semester, undergraduate students from the Institute of Applied Technology will assist the children in building bookshelves to use at home, she said.

"Each year we are amazed at the incredible projects being done by organizations across Kansas," said Steve Coen, president and CEO of the Kansas Health Foundation. "This grant program allows us to support these innovative and impactful community initiatives and recognize the groups and individuals making them a reality."

Recognition Grants expand the Kansas Health Foundation's support to a broad range of health related organizations throughout the state. The program is targeted for organizations and agencies proposing meaningful and charitable projects or initiatives that fit within the foundation's mission of improving the health of all Kansans. In addition to supporting projects, the foundation also seeks to support initiatives that focus on promoting policy, systems and environmental transformations that support health.

For more information about this project or to make a donation and volunteer, contact Dr. Zelenka at 785-628-4688 or vlzelenka@fhsu.edu.

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