Building and Strengthening Neighborhoods and People

Read Across America Day at Barclay Elementary/Middle

Submitted by Vanessa Schaefer

The unheard-of amount of snow that had paralyzed the city for weeks had thrown us off of our carefully plotted timeline. Now members of the staff of Barclay Elementary/Middle School and GHCC had only one week to finish putting together a day-long event and press conference. Read Across America Day is a celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday and of reading in general, every year on March 2. Barclay celebrates this with zeal, but this year had an additional benefit and stressor added: Dr. Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Schools and Dr. Ron Daniels, President of Johns Hopkins University, were having a press conference at the school the same day to announce a new volunteering partnership between JHU and City Schools.

Obviously, we saw how great this could be for Barclay.  In addition to having guest readers councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, Rabbi Panitz of Bolton St. Synagogue, Sanford Ungar, President of Goucher College, and other admirable public figures in Baltimore, we would have Dr. Alonso and the press there, too.  This fact soon became a “for better or worse” statement. Everyone was working hard, but it seemed that as soon as plans were solidified, they needed to be changed. Time was a factor, as was location, length of time spent, and classes considered and mapped for the day.
Everything was a flurry of activity, but just when it seemed like there was too much to do and too little time to do it, volunteers showed up in spades. The Johns Hopkins Women’s Club has always volunteered in the library, their work being the basis of what keeps it alive. This time, they showed up bearing enough food and drinks to provide snacks for Read Across America for the entire population of the school—and then some! Other volunteers that work with Barclay’s Story Pals program showed up to do any work necessary, including moving boxes of books all over the school, and to read to classes during empty time slots, exciting the students with their expert, engaging public reading skills.

Principal Jenny Heinbaugh, City Schools' Michael Sarbanes and CEO Dr. Andres Alonso

Left to right: City Schools’ Michael Sarbanes, City Schools CEO Dr. Andres Alonso, and Principal Jenny Heinbaugh

So the day came and went with all of us on our feet and the last strands of our sanity. It was exhausting, but it went off without incident. In fact, it was amazing. I went home that day pleased, but wanting to go to bed and stay there for a week. Fortunately, I dragged myself to the gym, and while running stoically and watching the news, I saw the event covered on the 5 o’clock Channel 11 News! Students that I knew, that I had worked with all day, were being interviewed! I couldn’t stop smiling and I started to laugh while still running on the treadmill, unaware of what kind of scene this might be for my fellow gym patrons. The way it made me feel to know that the event went well, and that the students would see themselves on TV and be proud to have been a part of it, all of this is what drives me every day to keep working behind the scenes. If my face is never on that screen, I won’t worry about it; but if I can keep helping facilitate positive events that enrich people’s lives, well that’s a reason to keep moving.

Barclay Elementary/Middle Principal and President Sanford Unger of Goucher College

Barclay Principal Jenny Heinbaugh and President Sanford Ungar of Goucher College.  President Ungar read to children as part of Read Across America Day