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Focusing on community literacy

Date: 10/25/2011

AmeriCorps VISTA joins Alvernia University’s Holleran Center with ambitious goals
Allison Kren to focus on Greater Reading’s youth in literacy

PH: KrenFor the past four years, Alvernia's Holleran Center for Community Engagement (HCCE) has been a host site for the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. Each year, the university has sponsored one VISTA worker, whose mission has been to "build capacity in non-profit organizations and communities to help bring individuals and communities out of poverty.”

This year's volunteer, Allison Kren, a graduate of Rollins College (Winter Park, Florida), and Vermont native, fits the HCCE's mission and program goals perfectly, explains Jessica Umbenhauer, Project Coordinator at the Holleran Center. During her time at Alvernia, Kren will have two main programs to focus coordinating: the Greater Reading Cops ‘n’ Kids and Alvernia READS. 

Allison will be in charge of coordinating the Greater Reading Cops 'n' Kids steering committee of 10 volunteers focused on school readings, book donations, fundraising, volunteer sign-ups, and events. Cops ‘n’ Kids  is a non-profit group originally founded in November of 1997 by a police officer in Racine, Wisconsin. Local police officers distributed books out of the trunks of their cars to community children, while on routine patrol. It has now turned into a nationwide program focusing on children’s literacy. Mayor Tom McMahon launched a Greater Reading Cops ‘n’ Kids program in 2006. The program’s purpose remains simple: allow otherwise at-risk children to enrich their minds through the power of reading by providing them with the materials to do so.

Alvernia READS is a new initiative of the HCCE targeting a classroom at Tyson Schoener Elementary School, in the Reading School District. Alvernis students will visit the classroom multiple times each month to hold readings, book discussions, activities, and distribute books in conjunction with the Cops ‘n’ Kids program. Allison will be in charge of helping to launch this initiative and monitoring the program for results.

Allison is passionate about working with youth, literacy and the community. After initial research and interviewing with Alvernia, it was obvious that it was the ideal fit for her. “I am looking forward to setting up two programs each with tremendous potential that I know in the end will make a difference in this community,” said Kren.

“We are extremely excited for Allison to take the lead on these initiatives and look forward to the results of her tremendous energy and talents,” said Jay Worrall, Director of the Holleran Center.

The Greater Reading Cops ‘n’ Kids program has already began meeting with Kren, and plans to launch a campaign shortly – to fill the need for fundraising for the website, reading labels, event funds, as well as book drive sponsors. To donate, please make checks out to the Goggleworks (Cops ‘n’ Kids memo line), and to donate gently used books please visit the Mayor’s Office at Reading’s City Hall or Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement.

  • History: Established as a private four-year liberal arts college in 1958, Alvernia celebrated its 50th year by being awarded university status in 2008.
  • Heritage: Founded by the Bernardine Sisters, a Catholic religious order, the university embraces the Franciscan core values of service, humility, collegiality, contemplation and peacemaking.
  • Motto: “To Learn, To Love, To Serve”
  • Campus: The main campus in Reading is 121 acres, with two satellite campuses in Philadelphia and Pottsville (Schuylkill County).
  • Location: Our residential campus is situated three miles from center-city Reading, in the scenic Blue Mountain area of Eastern Pennsylvania.
  • Enrollment: 3,000 students attend Alvernia including 1,500 traditional undergraduates, 600 continuing education students, and 780 graduate students. Over 77% of first-year students live on campus.
  • Faculty: Our professors are accomplished scholars, experts in their fields, and supportive mentors. The student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1. Most classes are 20 students or fewer.
  • Athletics: NCAA Division III, member of the Commonwealth Conference of the Middle Atlantic States Athletic Corporation and member of Eastern College Athletic Conference, 8 men’s and 10 women’s intercollegiate sports.