The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 20, 2014

NEO students giving back by volunteering at Miami school

MIAMI, Okla. — Once each week, Kelsey Matthews heads to a kindergarten class to spend some time with the youngsters.

“I come from a pretty large family, and being a couple of hours from home, it’s just really nice to go and be with those kids because they’re all so excited to learn,” said Matthews, a sophomore at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College from Lincoln, Ark. “After you go for a couple of times, they tell you what they did over the weekend or crazy kid tales.”

Matthews is part of the Agriculture Ambassadors, a leadership program at NEO that has added a new volunteer activity to its members’ responsibilities: reading weekly to pupils at Washington Elementary School in Miami.

The Agriculture Ambassadors is for students who are majoring in agriculture. Students are selected based on their grade point average and community involvement. They act as advocates for agriculture, and participate in national and state FFA conventions, Aggie Olympics and student body government meetings.

This semester, the students have been enthusiastic to learn about and connect with the Washington pupils as individuals, said the program’s sponsors.

“This weekly responsibility is rewarding for our NEO Ag Ambassadors because it is not only beneficial for the children, but our students too,” said Alisen Anderson, an agriculture instructor and program co-sponsor. “It’s like weekly therapy for them to see the improvements being made and to watch the growth and confidence of the kids in need of the attention and help with reading.”

Matthews, an agriculture and communications major, said she reads to her kindergartners, who sometimes read stories back to her as well. She also helps them with art projects or crafts, she said.

Marijo Leedy, a sophomore agriculture major from Morrison, Okla., said assisting at the elementary school — first with fifth-graders and more recently with kindergartners — has been a rewarding experience.

“It just really warms your heart to be around little kids because they have so much life in them, and they’re so fun to be around,” she said.

Washington Principal Vicki Lewis said the NEO students are a “great benefit” to her young pupils.

“Our school motto — ‘Washington Elementary students are on track to be college-, career- and citizen-ready’ — is shown daily in these NEO students showing up to help our students,” she said in a statement. “Besides the help in reading they offer our students, they also serve as role models in giving back to the community.”

Program history

THE READING SESSIONS at Washington Elementary School are a new component for the Agriculture Ambassadors program, which was launched in 2007 at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College as a way for top agriculture students to be represented within that department.

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