By Paula DeBoles-Johnson, AmeriCorps Program Manager

PaulaAug2013Staff-150x150Florida’s education system aims to ensure that every student has a chance to excel, both in school and in life. Increasingly, children’s success in school determines their success as adults, impacting their ability to pursue higher education and their career opportunities.

Volunteer Florida’s LeaderCorps, which develops emerging service leaders, recently worked with VF grantee Duval Reads to host the “Passport to Reading” program for more than 300 Jacksonville students. The project provided students the opportunity to learn about future careers from local professionals, including authors, law enforcement officers, a former NFL player, and a local television producer.

“It was important to make the connection between being a good reader and obtaining your dream job,” says Tiffany, the LeaderCorps member responsible for planning the project.

During the event, students moved through different stations, manned by the professionals who were there to represent their industry. Once students had the opportunity to ask the professionals questions about their careers, their “passports” were stamped by the speaker, allowing them to move on to the next station. All participants received a free backpack which included the Cornbread series by local author Vincent Taylor, an educator with the Duval County School District.

The students were all smiles as they enjoyed free food, music and candid advice as they spoke with their local hometown heroes. The presenters were just as enthusiastic as they shared their advice and stories about being strong readers, making good grades and finishing school. “Anything I can do to give back to this community and to these kids, I’m going to do it. This event was fun and in my eyes, a win for everyone especially the kids,” says Ciatrick Fason, former NFL player and local business owner.

“It’s days like today, when I get to impact lives in a positive way, that makes doing what I do completely worth it,” says Heather Biltoc, First Coast News Producer (pictured above).

Congratulations to the AmeriCorps Duval Reads team and their Program Director Carolyn Lynn for hosting yet another amazing LeaderCorps project! For additional information on the Passport to Reading project, see:

The mission of LeaderCorps is to strengthen national service and the awareness of AmeriCorps in Florida through service projects, community dialogue and civic engagement. Our inaugural class boasts twenty-one AMAZING leaders from participating AmeriCorps programs across the state that are funded by Volunteer Florida.