Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
PARK, Pa. - Prior to the 2015-16 Penn State men's hockey season, senior forward
Ricky DeRosa was inspired to somehow bridge the gap between his team and the
local Centre County community.
early beginnings, DeRosa talked about setting up a community service project
for the team with Penn State marketing manager Dana Crouse. Inspired by his
time volunteering with his Junior hockey teams, DeRosa knew a community
outreach program was the way to go.
DeRosa came up with the idea of a reading incentive program for local elementary
school students. Spring semester last year, the program was underway after the
Nittany Lions paired up with Miss. McCracken's second grade class at
Easterly Parkway Elementary.
of the reading rewards program is to incentivize students to read at least 20
minutes per night. Students are provided reading logs and encouraged to read as
much as possible, then during math time at the end of each month they bring in
their reading logs and add up their reading time.
that reading is a cool thing to do," DeRosa said. "Even as student-athletes,
there's nothing nerdy about reading."
his teammates usually come to the class on a biweekly basis to read to the
students. At the end of the month when the students hit their mark, the Nittany
Lions come in to do more than just spend time in the library.
students hit their goal, which they always do, we as a team go in at the end of
the month and that's their incentive," DeRosa said. "We either play floor
hockey, have a pizza party, or do play games."
their program is designed to lead up to Read Across America, a day of
celebration in the name of reading, which falls annually on the birthday of popular
children's author Dr. Seuss, March 2.
DeRosa's idea has grown far beyond the reaches of Penn State hockey, and now
more than 13 Penn State Athletic programs have been paired with local
elementary classes to promote the reading rewards program. The program
encompasses kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms, and is entirely
volunteer-based, so any student-athlete can get involved.
will be graduating in May, has also had to find the next torchbearer for the
program. He found a willing partner in
sophomore forward Chase Berger.
most of the leg work," Berger said. "We really want this program to continue
once we both leave so I think my goal is to see how Ricky does it, form a good
relationship with the teacher and then hopefully I can continue it next year
and find someone after me to keep it going."
short amount of time the program has been up and running, Berger has made lots
of memories, having been able to see the impact reading rewards has made on
love it, they really do," Berger said. "It's so easy to give back to them in
Berger both agreed that one of their favorite memories so far was when
sophomore goalie Chris Funkey came along to a classroom.
"The end of
last year Funkey was playing goalie for a floor hockey game," DeRosa said.
"Just seeing him having so much fun and all the kids laughing was hilarious. At
one point he played chase with them and about 15 or so kids dragged him down,
it was great."
Now a year
into the program, DeRosa and Berger have been able to reflect on the progress
they have made on the students they visit regularly.
"Our team always has fun going into the
classrooms," DeRosa said. "It doesn't seem like community service. It's just us
going out and having some fun in the community with kids who really look up to
you, it's nice when the initial platform we have as student-athletes can be
used to benefit the community."