Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cedar Hills Elementary Students Welcome Volunteer Readers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Cedar Hills Elementary Students Welcome Volunteer Readers

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

A year ago, the garden at Cedar Hills Elementary School was barren, uninviting and not a place to settle down with a good book.

Then dozens of volunteers from the University of North Florida, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and WAWS TV-30 swooped in to haul sod, plant butterfly-friendly flowers and install a decorative pergola, bird feeders, pavers and benches. At the same time, the Westside school's small library got a makeover.

The result is a couple of enticing reading areas that have been an inspiration to students, said Principal Kerwyn Neal.

And that's cause for celebration.

So about 60 UNF honor students recently returned to do more planting and weeding, pass out more books and, of course, read to students. The Heart of America Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., sponsored the project as part of its campaign to give children the tools they need to read, succeed and make a difference.

Another 55 UNF volunteers went to Spring Park Elementary School on the Southside and 55 to Long Branch on the Eastside to do similar projects.

The three schools applied to the foundation to have their libraries redesigned and were chosen after site visits, said Colleen Noland, Heart of America's vice president of programs. The need was great at Cedar Hills because its library is so small, she said. So volunteers painted the interior last year, installed blue carpet and a colorful reading rug, redid the bulletin boards, reorganized and cleaned shelves and donated books and computers.

At this year's celebration, each child got two books to take home, while the library got books as well. Cedar Hills also had another reason to celebrate. It jumped from a D to an A grade from the state, based largely on student scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. …

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