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CCAC Wins National Endowman For The Arts 'Big Reads' Grant

The Community College of Allegheny County has been awarded a grant for helping reluctant readers delve into topics such as censorship and intolerance with their Big Reads program.

The program, run by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), aims to get people who normally wouldn’t pick up a book — to read.

Barbara Evans, CCAC Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, said the grant enables them to do “authentic community outreach.”

“We love the fact that the National Endowment for the Arts granted us this award again because it’s amazing to see how people respond to literature and how they connect with it,” Evans said.

The $15,000 grant will go towards buying the books and bringing in guest speakers.

“It’s a wonderful program for all of our community partners to explore themes such as social injustice, racism, isolation … via one of the National Endowment for the Arts required books off their required reading list,” Evans said.

That list has 36 books that grantees can choose from — CCAC plans to read "Fahrenheit 451," a story about a futuristic American society that burns books as a form of censorship.

Evans said CCAC’s community partners include schools, libraries and community based organizations such as Shuman Juvenile Detention Center.

“A major theme of the grant is to reach out to reluctant readers,” Evans said. “And so some of our partners fit that category and some of the others don’t, but we try to get all of them involved doing hands on activities or exposing them to dynamic presenters.”

She said this year they worked with men who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction at Renewal Treatment Incorporated.

“To see how they suspend themselves temporarily by engaging in our hands-on activities like a talk show or doing poetry and letter writing to characters and how creative and insightful they are, it’s just rewarding programming for all of those that get involved,” Evans said.

CCAC was one of 77 organizations nationally that received the grant.

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.
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