When Polk County High’s senior class of 2021 walks across the graduation stage on Friday, several of the newly-minted graduates will have some extra fans cheering their accomplishment.

A group of PCHS seniors volunteered their time this academic year to hold regular reading sessions with first grade students at Tryon Elementary School. The Polk County Literacy Club, as the group named itself, has been holding Zoom sessions each week with students for most of this year.

The seniors have been reading books that focus on social and emotional learning as well as diversity. The students began each session with some pre-reading questions, then ended each reading with additional questions.

“The children looked forward to our time with the seniors,” said Tryon Elementary teacher Wendi Owens. “I’m so proud of them for stepping up and going out of their comfort zone to try something different.”

PCHS senior Rollins Carter (pictured above with Tryon Elementary students) launched the Literacy Club earlier this year, motivated in part by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“COVID-19 has had a major impact on education, and so I wanted to help find a fun way for elementary students to get as much as they could out of this difficult year,” Carter said. “I worked with Wendi Owens and the other first grade teachers to try and figure out the best way seniors could help out and then PCLC was formed.

“As a senior, I felt the sting of missing out on so much, but I didn’t want these kids to miss out on an important stage of learning. Of course this wasn’t something that had a big impact on their learning experience, but from what I could tell on both ends, it put a smile on many faces and hopefully made reading a little bit more fun.”

One other interaction that put a smile on all faces – many of the PCHS seniors had an opportunity to meet the Tryon first graders while visiting the school during the annual Senior Clap-Out.

PCHS seniors involved in PCLC included:

Marilyn Castillo
Rollins Carter
Taytem Johnson
Jackson Edwards
Kristen Hall
Belen Akers
Madison Geddings
Skye Spinner
Rachael Davis
Christian Chavez
Caelan Gaul

Members of the Polk County Literacy Club read to Tryon Elementary students via a Zoom session