Rapid City, S.D. — Meadowbrook Elementary School was visited by the Rapid City Rush's mascot, Nugget, on Wednesday, January 25th. The hockey team’s enthusiastic equine was there to celebrate the literary triumph of a third-grader named Natalia Vargas. Third-graders across the Black Hills were challenged to put their writing chops to the test by Black Hills Reads, an initiative of United Way of the Black Hills.
Participants could write either a 300 word short story or a poem based around the idea of “Exploring Your Next Chapter” or “Mystery in the Black Hills.” Natalia’s story, entitled “Little Elk Creek,” took first prize for Short Story and won her a $100 gift card, family tickets to a Rush game and a classroom visit from that diligent donkey. During his visit, Nugget gave out root beer floats and posed for pictures with the whole class.
One hundred and fourteen third-graders throughout the Black Hills participated in this year’s writing contest. The judges of the competition, including Nugget himself, were inspired and impressed by each of the entries submitted.
The United Way has identified that proficiency in early readers is one of the most effective ways to impact the Black Hills community in a long term, measurable way. “The goal is to help children reach grade level reading by third grade. Research has shown that an early foundation in literacy is a pretty accurate indicator of life success in people,” said Hanna Glissendorf, the Director of Black Hills Reads. “When children are able to reach their appropriate reading level by third grade, they typically stay proficient in literacy throughout school. When a child has a love of reading, all kinds of benefits follow them throughout school and into adulthood.”
Black Hills Reads plans to continue to encourage reading and writing in young children throughout the Black Hills with more literacy programs and contests like the third grade writing competition. “If you don’t invest in early childhood education, you’re not going to have a knowledgeable workforce. If you want to have talented people in your organization or if you want to have your businesses flourish, you need people who have the opportunity to be educated,” Glissendorf said. “It really is an investment in the future workforce.”
For more information or to schedule interviews, please contact:
Hanna Glissendorf, Black Hills Reads Director