It’s captivating to read a baby’s face, and it’s even more captivating to help a baby come face-to-face with reading. That’s what four Converse students experienced during a deeply immersive 10-week internship piloted by Converse and the Carolinas chapter of the national organization, Reach Out and Read. It is the first Reach Out and Read internship of its kind in the country.
“The experience broadened my outlook, introducing new perspectives and transferable skills for my field, “says Illinois junior Elaina Smith, an education major who was selected for the program.
What Reach Out and Read wants to accomplish with Converse is to educate and activate young up-and-coming advocates and leaders for early childhood.
The idea was conceived during a literacy summit Converse hosted for Reach Out and Read in 2016. The summit brought together Dr. Terrell Tracy, who oversees Converse’s Educational Specialist in Literary degree program, with Callee Boulware, executive director of Reach Out and Read Carolinas. “We were just brainstorming together,” Boulware says. “We felt like there’s a strong culture around leadership development at Converse.”
Development is the entire concept behind the nonprofit that started in 1989 in Boston. Reach Out and Read primarily serves low-income families and children from birth to age 5.
“Families go to the doctor for many years before entering the school system,” says Dr. Julie Jones, Director of Teacher Education and Student Teaching at Converse. “If we can model those best reading practices, starting in the pediatrician’s office, then parents are going to do it at home.”
Says Boulware, “What Reach Out and Read wants to accomplish with Converse is to educate and activate young up-and-coming advocates and leaders for early childhood. This is important if you’re going to be a teacher, and it also positively impacts everything in your community.”
Thanks to an alumna’s $10,000 grant, the four interns earn a stipend, plus mileage. They’re deployed to four Spartanburg-area clinics where they are fully engaged with Reach Out and Read, the community, and the pediatrics practices.
“When we talk to providers about what we can help them with,” Elaina says, “it’s interesting that they’re so willing to take in information from juniors in college. They went to medical school, and they’ve been in practice. It’s quite surreal that I should give knowledge to my provider, who says, ‘Yeah, let’s do that.’ I’m, like, ‘Okay, wow.’”
“That is so cool,” says Dr. Tracy, who notes that each student had to report to a Converse audience at semester’s end. “I’m excited for these four women.”
So are they.
Says Chiara Mattamira, a junior from Milan, Italy, who is double majoring in mathematics and chemistry: “Out of all I have gained from this internship, I believe the most valuable was learning about the true meaning of networking, collaboration, and collective impact. I have no doubt that no matter what career path I will choose, those life lessons will be helpful and profitable.”
Originally published in The Converse Magazine.