It changed at least one volunteer reader.
"My daughter was a Bobcat," said Sonia Pagan-Lopez, "but I never had the opportunity to be a mentor, because I had to work. But after today, I'm signing up to be a mentor."
Pagan-Lopez was one of dozens of adults who volunteered to read stories to children as part of the African-American Read-In on Feb. 20, at Belle Terre Elementary School.
"Education is the foundation," she said.
The program was established nationwide in 1990 and began at Belle Terre four years ago. Dr. Earl Johnson, Flagler Schools' executive director of leadership and operations, read to students on Feb. 20; he also started the program in Volusia County in 2006 when he was a principal.
"We want students to learn to love to read," Johnson said. The event gives students a chance to "see successful adults who are articulating things they've been through."
Interim Principal Jessica DeFord thanked the volunteer readers and sent the message to "make everybody feel like somebody."
"No matter what your heritage, there are people who have been successful — people you can relate to," DeFord said.
Among the readers were a woman whose grandparents helped build the Panama Canal, and another whose parents had to be married in New York state in 1946 because it was illegal in many places for a white person to marry a black person.
"The kids loved it and connected to the community," Assistant Principal Katrina Feola said. "It's just awesome."
Editor's Note: The caption for the group photo of mentors is as follows:
Front: Pierrette Vernon, Jean Jarre, Susan Guarino, Natalie Muldoon, Principal Jessica DeFord, Ashley Belcher, Dawne Gilpin and Employee of the Year Ben Ceja; back row: Katrina Feola, Lauren Ramirez, Teacher of the Year Kristin Frank, Dr. Earl Johnson and Stacy Anderson