New Castle High School students may soon be scoring higher on reading tests, thanks to a high school in Erie, a Penn State student and a little serendipity.
It all started with a conversation between a college student and his girlfriend's father.
Alex Payne, a Neshannock High School graduate, is a project and supply chain management major at Penn State's Behrend Campus in Erie. He learned from a fellow student that Iroquois High School in Erie was updating its library and getting rid of its old books. The volumes were destined either for Goodwill or for the dump.
Payne, a member of the Penn State service organization, Lion Ambassadors, got to talking to Vince Anzalone, the father of his girlfriend, Audrey, who happens to be a 10th-grade English teacher at New Castle High School.
Anzalone told Payne that school officials had been kicking around the idea of establishing mini-libraries in each classroom, to give students something to read when they are done with an assignment and have a few moments free time. Access to these books and the extra reading might also help students raise their test scores, they thought.
The only problem was the school didn't have the money to buy books for these mini-libraries, Payne said Anzalone told him.
Call it serendipity, but the conversation brought together the need and the supply. "Somebody bigger was definitely working in the background," Payne chuckled Monday.
And so it was that on Monday, Payne and the Lion Ambassadors president, Connor Kasten, drove from Erie to the high school with a 26-foot Penske diesel rental truck and 8,000 to 10,000 books packed in cardboard boxes.
Among the books, he said, were volumes on virtually every nonfiction subject. "It was essentially a whole library, a little bit of everything."
It took about 40 minutes for Alex, Connor, Alex's dad, Ted Payne, school custodians, Anzalone and a group of Anzalone's students to carry them into the school.
Anzalone said that now they will sift through the books and decide where they will do the most good, whether for mini-libraries or even as additions to the high school's main library.
Payne said he is especially grateful to Penske truck rental on Peach Street in Erie which gave him a greatly reduced price on the truck rental. He said the high school is covering the cost of the truck.