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LCC and St. Helens Elementary

LCC leadership student Jenna Lafontaine, 17, reads a book to St. Helens Elementary kindergartner Eddie Monroy during one of Lafontaine's weekly visits to the school.

The life of an elementary school teacher can be stressful, so Lower Columbia College leadership students are giving them a helping hand.

For the past three months, members of Associated Students of LCC have volunteered weekly in St. Helens Elementary classrooms. Student government president Clinton Howard, who started the program, said he chose St. Helens in Longview’s Highlands neighborhood due to it being “one of the most struggling elementary schools.”

“They have really low funding, (and) the students typically come from more difficult upbringings,” Howard, 32, said. “I actually grew up most of my life two blocks away from that school, so it’s cool to be able to relate to those kids and give them a little bit of inspiration and hope.”

The LCC students help St. Helens teachers in a variety of ways, from reading with kids to helping teach math to simply keeping them engaged.

“It started out as just reading, but it kind of (turned into) being the teacher’s aide,” said LCC’s club and diversity chair, Alayna Dalgleish.

On Thursday morning, Dalgleish, 18, and LCC student government’s chief justice, Jenna Lafontaine, 17, read to fidgety kindergartners in Heather Slind’s classroom. Slind said the presence of volunteers is always welcome.

“We always appreciate extra help in the classroom,” she said. “I think it’s wonderful for college students and high-school students to be giving back to the community and serving any way they can.”

Both LaFontaine and Dalgleish are Running Start students; the former attends Castle Rock High School, while Dalgleish goes to Mark Morris. Because corralling young children can be a Herculean task at times, Dalgleish said she and Lafontaine are more than willing to keep an eye on Slind’s pupils.

“Sometimes it’s hard to round up a lot of young children and get them to pay attention, so while she’s teaching, we kind of help with that,” she said. “ ‘Look at Mrs. Slind, pay attention,’ (we say).”

When kindergartner Alonzo Butler was asked about Dalgleish and Lafontaine periodically visiting his class, he said simply, “It’s fun.”

Classmate Eddie Monroy agreed, adding that he thought having LCC students helping out was “great.” Eddie then gushed about his love of frogs.

As the student government group struggles to work around the college students’ hectic and “wonky” schedules, Dalgleish said she hopes the program will stick around.

“We’re trying to make it so that every year, the next student government group will continue coming here and volunteering,” she said.

Howard is graduating from LCC in June, so he won’t be able to visit St. Helens Elementary for much longer. For him, the program was a “life-changing experience.”

“It’s one of the best service projects I’ve ever been able to be a part of,” he said.

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