Coast Union senior Will Stephenson isn’t the first to have sounded the alarm. Others in recent years have observed — and are concerned — that Coast Union is losing significant numbers of students to Morro Bay High School and Mission Prep in San Luis Obispo.
But Stephenson, a senior who is troubled that more than 10 percent of last year’s Santa Lucia Middle School graduates are attending schools other than Coast Union, is doing something about it.
He and Cambria Grammar School Librarian Bohdi Hodges have an ongoing educational initiative that brings Coast Union students to Hodges’ library to read sports-themed books to students.
Ultimately, the goal is to light a fire under younger students about reading, about sports, and about the value of an educational experience at Coast Union.
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This project is a way, as Stephenson puts it, “to show them that older kids who may be their role models love to read.” The idea is also to “encourage kids to be active and play sports, and to get kids excited about going to Coast Union.”
Stephenson, who excels at basketball and baseball, has been involved in sports “since the time I was a kindergartner; and it has taught me all of my leadership and teamwork skills — and the importance of a strong work ethic.” Will’s love of reading can be traced to his mother, Heather Stephenson, a librarian, who once served as librarian for the Cambria Grammar School.
In an email interview Stephenson — the sports commissioner at Coast — said he wants to “open the door for younger kids to experience the same thing” he has experienced. His brother Zach, along with Coast students Riley and Ellie Kennedy, Karis Lawson and Kaylee Ferguson, are also on board with the reading program.
Hodges explained, that “during each visit, the athletes get the chance to support the love of literature among our young students and to promote Coast Union sporting events and the idea of a healthy, athletic lifestyle right here at home.”
After a story is read to a group of grammar school students, the new book is donated to the library.
This is the beginning of something so dynamic. ... I would love this to become a tradition at Cambria Grammar School.
Bohdi Hodges, Cambria Grammar School librarian
“It is always a thrill to see kids so excited to get their hands on a book,” Hodges said in an email communication. “Student comments range from, ‘That was so cool’ to ‘My sister plays volleyball, and I will too.’”
The books are donated by Coast Union parent Juli Amodei — mother of basketball and baseball player David Amodei — who heads an advertising agency, 12 Toes Promotions. The afternoon I visited the library this month, the Stephenson brothers shared reading duties from a book about the youthful growing pains experienced by retired superstar basketball player Michael Jordan.
The students were wholly attentive to the reading, and after the story finished, Will encouraged the group to attend a basketball game at Coast Union.
“Tell your parents you would like to see a Bronco game,” he said. He offered every student a gift certificate for candy at the CUHS gym’s snack bar, and relayed the positive experiences they will enjoy while attending Coast Union.
“This is the beginning of something so dynamic,” Hodges pointed out. “It supports our district, our schools, our sports programs and our students. I would love this to become a tradition at Cambria Grammar School.”
Will’s basic bottom line: “I want to get kids excited about going to Coast Union.”