Recently Ohio Northern University adopted the Second and Seven Foundation Reading Program under “Special Activities” in the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). The Second and Seven Foundation is based out of Columbus, Ohio and aims to tackle the issue of illiteracy in second grade students. This program is in numerous areas around the state of Ohio. Interesting enough, the program creates and writes their own books which are the ones read to the students, providing each student with the book to keep. Not only is the fact that students get free books exciting, but the athletes at ONU are able to have an opportunity to reach out to their community.
Not only a student at Ohio Northern but a student athlete as well, Zach Ayres brought this phenomenal program to ONU during his time as SAAC President. He decided to bring the program to ONU after his dad was greatly impacted by a Second and Seven event he attended in Columbus. Zach then began setting up the program. After contacting many people, he got the program set in place and was ready to start.
The first reading took place last year on October 8, 2019 and it was a smashing success. Three women’s lacrosse players, two track runners, and a women’s tennis player attended. When they arrived, the athletes were introduced to one of three classrooms. Once introduced they began reading the book of the month and then led an open discussion about the moral of the book after reading it. Once discussion and questions were finished the athletes distributed the books to the classroom and autographed the copies for the students. They went back each month with new athletes each time to read the books in the series. Each second-grade student received eight free books through the program last year in 2019. Talking to Zach he expressed, “I cannot begin to express how much this program means to me. The joy I saw this program bring to so many children was unbelievably rewarding. The second graders look up to college athletes as if they are superheroes. Every time we came back they were so excited to see us and always looked forward to our next visit. I hope to see this program continue long into the future, I truly think it will make a great impact on the village of Ada and Ohio Northern Athletics.”
For the school year from 2020-2021 Zach decided to pass down the responsibility to Lauren Shaw and Megan Lubinski who became Co-Chairs of Special Activities. Since they both took over right in the mix of the pandemic everything moving forward has been a little different. The program is now reading the book to the students via Zoom. Even though reading a book over Zoom to second graders is not the easiest it still has been beneficial. Especially since the teachers have been very receptive and happy to work around COVID guidelines. Lauren and Megan both feel they are very lucky to be able to do this for our community and want to see this program have a lasting impact and grow even more.
Not only are they are promoting reading through the program while also promoting the future of athletics at Ohio Northern. Some of the kids may be inspired after meeting our athletes and may want to “grow up to be just like them”. We are able to inspire and provide for local children in a way that many other schools do not. This program only adds to the uniqueness that is Ohio Northern and shows the character of our athletes. To any athlete that is considering volunteering to read, please do! The program is looking for more role models to send out into the community to spread the greatness of being an athlete at Ohio Northern. This program is bigger than any one athlete, team, or school; it is about forming a community. It’s about being a part of something greater and giving back to the community that gives you a home during your college years.