Generally, people don’t enjoy waking up and getting out and about on a rainy morning like Tuesday was in the Des Moines metro. But it turned out to be a good setting for the READ to SUCCEED portion of the United Way’s annual Day of Action.

As the READ to SUCCEED event sponsor, DART provided the book Last Stop on Market Street to more than 1,000 area third graders and 800 volunteers from across the community stepped up to read it with students.

Twenty-eight of them were DART employees who reported to Monroe Elementary, and if they hadn’t previously read Last Stop on Market Street, no sooner did they crack it open than they discovered that, not only does the book highlight the importance of public transit, the story takes place on a rainy day!

“Sponsoring READ to SUCCEED was a natural for DART given both the importance of reading skills and this year’s book, illustrating how public transportation connects people to places, opportunities, and each other,” said DART CEO Elizabeth Presutti. “We provide 3,500 rides each weekday to middle and high school students in Des Moines and see firsthand how transportation is integral to long-term academic success.”

DMPS, DART and United Way are in the habit of collaborating on behalf of students and this year’s Day of Action was an opportune time to emphasize that.

“Day of Action is an important way to raise awareness of the challenges people in our community face,” said Elisabeth Buck, president of United Way of Central Iowa. “We’re especially proud this year to talk about how we need to…ensure (student) success through opportunities including access to public transportation and mentoring to build reading skills.”

One squad of the DART volunteers at Monroe was dispatched to the 3rd grade classroom of Anna Douglas where Elizabeth sat down with Ayzia, Jaleya and Alayaa. They chatted for a few minutes, discovering things they have in common, like pet dogs. Then they dove into the book together.

The plan was to take turns, each reading a page at a time. But Elizabeth’s role was essentially reduced to an occasional consultant on a word here and there. The eight-year-olds handled most of the reading.

In a nutshell, Last Stop on Market Street is the award-winning story of a boy and his grandmother and their Sunday routine of riding the bus after church. All sorts of people board along their route, allowing “Nana” to teach “CJ” that it takes all kinds to make a world and share perspectives that help him see what he thought was deprivation in more positive lights.

For Elizabeth and the other DART volunteers who rerouted themselves to Monroe Tuesday, the rainy morning was just the busman’s holiday they signed up for.

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