Young Armory students build literacy through Mount summer program


Through the Literacy Education Advocacy Program (LEAP), hosted annually at the Armory, graduate Education students from Mount Saint Mary College help children from Newburgh and the surrounding communities build confidence and reading skills, making sure that they’re ready to succeed in school come September.

LEAP is built into the grad students’ coursework. As in years past, the collaboration was spearheaded by Janine Bixler, professor of Education at the Mount. This year, she was aided by Brian Kimbark ’15 MSEd ’18, a second grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School and an adjunct professor of Education at the Mount.

The schedule was intense. Nearly two dozen Mount teacher candidates tutored the kids for four days a week over the course of several weeks. In addition, there were two sessions: one for younger children and one for kids approaching their teens.

Under the tutelage of the graduate students, the children – kindergarteners to sixth graders – spent the summer writing and illustrating their class book, N is for Newburgh: An Alphabet of Our City.

For N is for Newburgh, the young Armory students were each given a letter of the alphabet and researched the city for something interesting beginning with that letter. Subjects included Leo’s Pizzeria, the Dominican Center at Mount Saint Mary College, and more.

The young students then painted a picture of their subject and wrote a passage about it. On the last day of class, the children presented excerpts to their friends and families, to thunderous rounds of applause.

“Many of the students visited the sites themselves and took some photos, too,” explained Kimbark. “Doing everything from the research to the writing was a great experience for them.”

“By improving their literacy, we’re giving these young students life skills, not just school skills,” said Bixler.

“It’s all about fostering a love of learning and a love of reading,” Kimbark saide.

“This really helped to increase the students’ confidence,” said Megan Stacklum of Newburgh, a third-grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School. “My four-year-old student was a little shy at first and he had a hard time with the alphabet. Now he comes running in and is excited to learn.”

For more information about the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, visit,

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