Reading with a Purpose: Alpha Chi Makes Scholarship Effective for Good in Cleveland

The 2019 National Convention has drawn to a close, but Alpha Chi is not finished celebrating all the accomplishments from this year’s convention in Cleveland, Ohio. With approximately 200 student presentations, 27 academic fields represented and plenty of thought-provoking speakers, the National Convention attendees had their fill of academic discourse to take back to their chapters as inspiration for the coming year.

And while the Alpha Chi community is thrilled about all that was achieved on the research and creativity front, the ways Alpha Chi made scholarship effective for good in Cleveland was equally noteworthy.

This year Alpha Chi partnered with Reading is Fundamental (RIF) to participate in improving childhood literacy. RIF is an organization whose mission is to engage with local communities and organizations by implementing programs that combat the growing problem of childhood illiteracy. With an estimated 25 million children in America struggling with reading proficiency, both RIF and Alpha Chi embrace the worthy goal of changing children’s lives with the transformative power of reading.

Coming into the convention, Alpha Chi chapters had raised a collective $1,567 to donate to RIF. An astounding 20% of this money was raised by the Texas Psi chapter at Abilene Christian University, led by chapter sponsor, Dr. Jennifer Huddleston.

By the end of the convention, our chapters had together raised a grand total of $2,022 to donate to RIF, an amount raised in celebration of the upcoming 2022 Alpha Chi centennial. But the Alpha Chi members didn’t stop at raising money for RIF; they took hands-on action.

Around 20 students and sponsors gave up time from their National Convention activities to travel to Paul L. Dunbar School in Cleveland and read to 1st-grade students, as well as help with an arts and crafts project. The children were each given the opportunity to select three books from a donation pile, which the volunteers said the children did proudly. Time was then set aside for the children to select somewhere to read with their Alpha Chi volunteer one-on-one.

While some volunteers had attended similar Alpha Chi events in the past, others were first-time participants in an Alpha Chi service project. Newcomer and experienced volunteers alike who served in Cleveland spoke to how deeply the experience inspired them.

Dr. Agashi Nwogbaga, an Alpha Chi chapter sponsor from Wesley College, volunteered years ago in a similar partnership with Alpha Chi and RIF, and saw similar success and excitement from the event this year.

“I was in awe as we helped the kids proudly select three books each from the donated books and then building bird nests and reading the books,” Dr. Nwogbaga explained about the one-on-one reading groups that formed between the Cleveland students and the Alpha Chi members. “The visible excitement of selecting and reading books that they can call their own was palpable… When kids heard me change my voice to match different characters in a book, they exploded in exuberant giggles as if I had magical powers.”

Another Alpha Chi volunteer, Saint Vincent College alumna Ande Greco, says that the experience reminded her of how a simple act of kindness is powerful.

“Seeing the smiles on each and every one of these children’s faces was priceless. They were so happy and grateful to have books to take home to read, but they were even happier to have Alpha Chi members reading to them,” Ande says. “These children were so selfless, even wanting to share their books with their brothers and sisters at home.”

After the event, volunteers expressed their own renewed passion for reading, thanks to the Cleveland students’ enthusiasm.

“I was originally wanting to participate in the RIF event to be more involved at the convention and to meet new student members from different states, but after the event, I was even more glad to have gone,” says Zack Merhavy, a Grand Canyon University graduate student. “Hearing what RIF does to help young students who have very little, giving them books, and getting them excited about reading really changed my perspective… After seeing how excited and thankful those kids were to have received and to read the books we donated, it will be very difficult for me to ever take reading for granted again.”

With this mentality of scholarship ushering in positive change—even on an elementary school level—Alpha Chi counts the service project as a victory, both for RIF, the students of Paul L. Dunbar School, and Alpha Chi. Echoing the core values of Alpha Chi’s mission, Dr. Nwogbaga articulates the experience best:

“I still believe that cultivating the ability and excitement of reading is one of the best investments we can make in the life of any kid… Alpha Chi unquestionably made a lasting difference and surely made scholarship truly effective for good in Cleveland.”