Siblings Christina, Chris and Rachel LaRussa work with underprivileged children in their western New York community to help make the world a bigger place and open new doors through reading. The trio of siblings volunteer with Literacy Empowerment Action Plan of Western New York (LEAP of WNY), a nonprofit organization that fosters literacy.
Before they started volunteering with LEAP, the family actually used the program to help their youngest member, Rachel, bolster her reading skills. Now, the LaRussa kids – 15-year-old Christina, 13-year-old Christopher and 10-year-old Rachel – work with other young people on words and comprehension, teaching them to read out loud and to themselves, draw inferences from what they have read, and answer questions.
The children used their summer months to coordinate LEAP of WNY program activities at two libraries, the Julia Boyer Reinstein and the Anna Reinstein Memorial libraries in Cheektowaga, NY, reading to children and helping grow a very small collection of books through donations that yielded 800 books to fuel the imaginations of the young program participants.
According to the LaRussas, their experience with volunteering has introduced them to new friends, learn new skills, become more confident … and even learn to handle rejection when seeking book donations.
“You not only make someone else’s life better,” the children say, “but you make your own life better by helping others.”