Peter Budmen ’15 is on a quest to help local preschoolers get passionate about reading.
As the recipient of the 2013 Cohen Fellowship, Budmen is spearheading an initiative at Geneva Head Start that’s connecting students to a variety of reading supplies important for building literacy skills before kindergarten.
“Literacy is a cornerstone for success,” says Budmen, who is majoring in public policy and is enrolled in the Teacher Certification Program. “Creating that foundation early on in a child’s life could provide the means for reaching success in the future.”
Earlier this year, Budmen began working with Head Start educators to organize and implement a “literacy kit” program for one of the school’s classes. Each kit will include a recordable audio device called a Playaway, literary resources and supplies, backpacks, and other supporting materials, including puppets and costumes to create an interactive storytelling experience for the children.
Thanks to the Cohen Fellowship, which is made possible by the support HWS Trustee Dr. Stephen Cohen ’67, Budmen was awarded $2,000 to get the project off the ground. Cohen established the fellowship for HWS students to ensure extraordinary opportunities for growth and development around leadership skills. The Colleges’ Centennial Center for Leadership facilitates the award.
Budmen’s collaboration with Head Start coincides with the Colleges’ Geneva 2020 initiative, a community-wide effort to provide assistance in three key areas critical to the future of local children. Those areas are graduation rate, career and college readiness and literacy.
In early 2014, the literacy kits were prepared and distributed to students and their families with the goal of cultivating a vital learning connection for the children. Budmen says the literacy kit initiative fulfills an important need in the community.
“Through this effort, we’re trying to improve literacy among young people and create a passion for learning and literature,” Budmen says. “It’s an important opportunity for students to create a special bond over literacy with adults.”
Along the way, Budmen has also raised funds through a crowdsourcing campaign on DonorsChoose.org to help offset the cost of the literacy supplies.
Budmen says the HWS Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and CCESL Director Katie Flowers were instrumental in assisting with the DonorsChoose effort. Budmen also credits Karissa Schutt of Geneva Head Start for her guidance and mentorship in light of his proposal.
One of the project goals is to make the initiative sustainable in the long-term, Budmen says.
Through working with the educators, he says he wanted to combine at-home learning that involves parents or guardians. The literacy kits would encourage engagement around reading and literacy outside of school. The parent or guardian will read and use to the materials to tell the story.
“This will really help to foster an important interaction between the guardian and the child — one that has the potential to make a very positive impact on their future,” Budmen says.