Christmas Comes Early at Readers 2 Leaders

DALLAS – Time and time again, Norma Nelson took stock of the computers and chairs in the Computer Lab at Readers 2 Leaders reading instruction school and knew some changes desperately needed to be made.

The computers were outdated, the software was slow and the chairs were falling apart. And those three components at the West Dallas school made the lab less conducive to learning.

So Nelson applied for a grant from the Mavs Foundation – the foundation arm of the Dallas Mavericks. And the next thing she knew, the Mavs equipped Readers 2 Leaders with a new Reading & Learning Center, a separate Computer Lab, 15 brand new computers, chairs and computer desks.

“The kids walked in and I thought, ‘Well, I walked into a room full of happiness,’ ‘’ said Nelson, the executive director at Readers 2 Leaders. “I walked in and was surrounded by the kids all with smiles on their face who were excited to see the change.”

The urgent changes came with more space for the kids to learn, and up-to-date computers and software for them to keep pace with their contemporaries. Not to mention a warm environment to study and play while sitting in some user-friendly chairs.

“The computers are very cool,’’ said 11-year old Adrian Riuz, who has been a student at Readers 2 Leaders for four years. “The others were good computers, but they’re not really as good as these.”

Representatives from the Mavs Foundation, the Seth Curry Foundation, Pro Players Foundation and PPG/Glidden were on hand for the unveiling of the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center on September 11. Curry also stopped by to offer his support and share some words of encouragement with the students.

“The kids are very excited about the rooms, and I wanted to come in and help put in a computer lab and a reading room for the kids,” Curry said. “Like I was telling them earlier, my parents stressed to me the importance of school work and reading at a young age. So any time I can come in and use some resources that I have to help, it feels good to do that.”

Readers 2 Leaders tutors kids ages three through 12 who need extra assistance in reading so they can grow up and live a productive life. They offer in-school, after-school and summer camp programs, and were taken aback by the Mavs’ generous gifts.

Frank Gonzalez, a Readers 2 Leaders board member, said: “This is something that’s going to exceed everyone’s expectations for sure, especially the kids. Giving them access to having a computer allows them to be able to start thinking differently, and being able to have access to information that probably they didn’t have before is going to expand their horizons in so many different ways.”

Gonzalez applauded the Mavs for stepping into the community and lending a helping hand.

“I think its speaks really highly of the Mavericks’ organization to be able to reach out to the community and to the kids, and really show interest in reaching out and being able to help out and be an outreach to the youths,” Gonzalez said. “All the kids need is an opportunity to be able to better themselves.”

And that opportunity came compliments of the Mavs Foundation.

“We’re just so incredibly grateful for the support of the Mavs Foundation,” Nelson said. “The Computer Lab that we had before was falling apart. So when we found out about this opportunity, we applied thinking it would be a great opportunity for the kids to be able to walk into a lab that was brand new, that was a Dallas Mavericks theme. We applied and we were lucky enough to be selected and it’s just been incredible to see how excited and happy the kids are about this new place.”

Nelson admitted the school’s previous computers and chairs had seen their best days.

“Actually they were used computers that were donated to us,” Nelson said. “The software was kind of running behind and it was hard to update them and keep them current.”

“The chairs that we had were hand-me-downs, and a lot of them were ripped and they had seen some use and they were at the end of their life, so it was just so nice to have brand new furniture and brand new computers. We knew we needed new ones and it’s a big expense, so this was an amazing opportunity.”

An opportunity the Mavs have been doing across the Dallas/Fort Worth area for many years.

“That’s what’s great to see – the look on (the kids’) faces,” Mavs Foundation president Floyd Jahner said. “And the fact that with that excitement they’re going to really use the computers and hopefully keep reading more and be successful in school.

“That’s the end goal: to complete the education and really further the advancement in life.”

Curry noticed the unbridled joy and uncontrollable enthusiasm the students displayed when their teachers finally led them to the Computer Lab and Reading & Learning Center. As the students anxiously walked into the two rooms, it was as if this was Christmas in September.

“They were really genuinely excited,” Curry said. “They came in there and were jumping around and screaming. That was fun to watch. You obviously want the kids to use it and learn from it. But to see them having fun with it at the same time, that’s important, too.”