2013 Bezos Scholar Anna Katz and educator Lauren Keener promoted literacy among elementary school students and the Shaker Heights, OH community through their Local Ideas Festival, Today’s Readers, Tomorrow’s Leaders.
While surrounded by big ideas and passionate thinkers at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Anna and Lauren were inspired by stories from NASA astronaut Jeff Ashby and oceanographer Dave Gallo. As young people, these two remarkable men were essentially told they weren’t smart enough to accomplish their goals. Both men clearly proved the naysayers wrong. Inspired by their accomplishments and will to overcome, Anna and Lauren focused their Local Ideas Festival on building mentor-student relationship supportive of kids’ dreams while increasing literacy skills.
Throughout the year, twelve high school students partnered with twelve-second grade students, to provide mentorship and literacy tutoring. Today’s Readers, Tomorrow’s Leaders culminated in a celebratory event which began with a keynote from local children’s author Tricia Springstubb followed by a student theatre production of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” The event concluded in a graduation ceremony for the second-grade student participants. Each student-mentor pair received a certificate of completion and a gift card to a local bookstore.
“We worked closely with students throughout the year, building strong relationships and we were able to create a very personal atmosphere at our culminating event,” reflects Anna. “I really felt a strong sense of community between the many different families who attended.”