The students at North Strabane Intermediate School received a delightful surprise on Wednesday.
Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy
visited two sixth-grade classrooms to read to students as part of the “Newspapers In Education” program, sponsored by Trib Total Media.
“It was really exciting to have him read our book,” 12-year-old Zach Tipolci said.
Lovejoy read a chapter from Jenny Nimmo’s fantasy novel “Midnight for Charlie Bone.”
“It was fun,” Lovejoy said. “Reading out loud is never easy, but I think it went pretty well and hopefully I didn’t butcher too many words.”
“It was different from our teacher reading,” Tipolci said. “It was cool.”
After reading to the students, Lovejoy fielded questions that ranged from his education to his personal hobbies, but the Ivy League graduate stressed the importance of reading.
“Reading has been one of the most important things in my life,” Lovejoy told the class. “I still do a significant amount of reading. It makes me a smarter person, and it’s entertainment.”
The sixth-grade class at North Strabane grabbed the Penguins’ attention because of their McD’s Café program, where the classroom is turned into a café once a week and the students take the lead in discussions.
“They get to bring in lemonade and drinks,” said Kelsey Cataldo, the substitute teacher. “It’s like a literary circle where they each have a role, like a discussion director or vocab. It’s a way where they get some independence to have discussions on their own.”
The students listened intently as Lovejoy read to them, and when he was finished, each student received one of the Penguins youth jersey drawstring bags that were handed out at Friday’s game against Ottawa. Lovejoy signed each student’s bag, and since most students were wearing jerseys, he autographed those as well.
“It’s great, the kids really enjoy it,” said Kathy Crossey, Newspapers In Education coordinator. “It shows them the importance of learning, especially when an athlete comes in and reads to them.”
And there is no better Penguin to exemplify the importance of education than the Dartmouth-alum Lovejoy.
“He was a true role model, reading to the kids and talking about how much education has meant to him,” said Jody McIlvaine, one of the sixth grade teachers. “The fact that he went to Dartmouth, it means a lot. It’s so nice that he came.”
“(Education) is so important,” Lovejoy said. “You see people that don’t finish college, and it really limits your options. My family always stressed that in order for me to be successful that I needed to do it at both ends. Hockey would open doors for me, but in order for me to really take advantage of it, I needed to go to school and be successful in that form as well.
“Someday – hopefully not anytime soon – I’ll need to use the skills that I developed in high school and college to make a living when I’m not playing hockey.”
He left the students with one important piece of advice.
“Never give up,” he said. “Keep working and good things happen.”