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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, February 5, 2004

Walkathon pushes literacy feet first

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Education Writer

Waipahu Elementary School students won't have to wait as long to borrow Harry Potter books, thanks to their friends at Waipahu High School.

Students from the two schools teamed up for a walkathon in November that raised $1,436.75 for the elementary school library. The high school donated the check to the elementary school yesterday during an assembly.

During the event, about 50 students from the "League of Extraordinary Freshman" each teamed with a fourth-, fifth- or sixth-grader and did laps around the high school track for an hour in return for donations.

"It was a way for our kids to give back to the community," said Waipahu High School physical education teacher Elaina Paredes.

The high school students decided to donate the money to the library because books are a lasting gift.

During the presentation, Paredes impressed on the elementary school students the kind of positive effect reading could have on their future.

"Reading is very, very important," she said. "We're trying to spread that message throughout our community. I think if we all read, we all become better writers, better teachers, get smarter, get better jobs, and we can make our community what we want it to be, and it starts with you guys. You are the seeds of our community."

Marie Ramos, one of the freshman representatives at yesterday's assembly, was happy to contribute to literacy at the elementary school.

"It's very important. Some of the students don't really know how to read," Ramos said.

The top five fund-raisers and the five students who walked the most laps will each get to select a book to donate to the library. The 10 books will have bookplates with the names of the students who chose them.

"Cost is not a factor," librarian Elizabeth Kaneshiro told them. "I know a lot of you all have been asking for Harry Potter, so if that's what you want, that's what you will get."

Three of the boys who will be allowed to pick books jumped at the offer for more of the popular J.K. Rowling books. Fifth-grader Raymond Lobusta and fourth-grader Eusebio Agcanas both want the library to have more copies of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," while fifth-grader Sydney Awid wants "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

Agcanas hopes the extra copies will shorten the waitlist for checking the books out.

Not all the requests will be for books about the young wizard, though. Michael Lasquero wants a copy of the novel based on "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones," and Dominique Lopez wants "100th Day Worries."

One of the advantages of the community-service project was the bond it created between the high school and elementary school students.

Jane Shultz, a fourth-grade teacher and running-club organizer, said some of the elementary and high school kids still meet with each other.

"They're obviously reading more, they're meeting new people, they're getting confident. For the younger students, even coming to ask a student for money or even asking them, 'can you sponsor me?,' it's a big deal for them," she said.

Sixth-grader Erwin Celes said his favorite part was getting to know the older students and finding out what's in store for him in a couple of years.

Top fund-raiser Mariah Nicolas, who brought in $89.20, said no one was handing over big bills, so she had to ask a lot of friends and family for help.

"There was no $20 (donation), some of them gave $5 or $2."

Sixth-grader Anosau Tauala Jr., who walked 19 laps, said it was harder than he expected, and he was grateful his high school partner gave him water breaks.

"The field was very big," he said.

Reach Treena Shapiro at tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8070.