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Interns work with 4th Graders to write book, encourage communication skills

Photo contributed by Clemson University

Pearce Center intern Elizabeth Nichols helping fourth-grade student John Donahey finalize his story about being a wildlife biologist.

“You are stuck in the desert in the middle of nowhere. You see a helicopter going towards you. He lands near you and yells ‘get in,’ and you’re finally home. You don’t know who he is because he is a pilot.”

Derek Tanner is a fourth grader in Laura Heffington’s fourth grade class located in Anderson’s Centerville Elementary School. Derek is one of the 24 students from his class working with the Clemson University student interns from the Pearce Center for Professional Communication.

The interns visited the fourth graders twice to compose and publish a book titled “What Will I Be?” in which each student wrote a small essay on what they wanted to be in their future career. Each page included a hand-drawn picture, a description of the career, the salary for said career and even what they would to do if they got sick. Occupations ranged from a Women’s National Basketball Association coach to a robotics engineer.

Derek said that he wanted to be a pilot. “There are special benefits like meeting famous people or making a positive difference in someone’s life,” narrates Derek in his page titled “Life in the Clouds.” “I will also get to make people happy because they get to go to their destination …. I also like that airplanes have a lot of buttons so I can press them.”

According to Ashley Cowden Fisk, the assistant director of the Pearce Center, the main mission of the Center is to promote effective communication as an integral part of the learning process. The book is an attempt to promote the importance of this communication at an early grade level.

“The Pearce Center recognizes that students who fail to develop a passion for reading and writing at a young age are less likely to succeed in their education,” Fisk said. “The goal of this project is to inspire the Centerville Elementary students to develop a love of both reading and writing, as well as to enable students to recognize their unlimited career potential.”

Fisk also noted that this project is just as an important reflection of the university, saying, “Many times the surrounding community sees Clemson University as the place where the Tiger Football team plays….this project shows 4th graders that college students care about them and want to help them think about their future goals. It also allows Pearce interns the opportunity to use the skills they have developed at Clemson to give back to someone else.”

Pearce Center intern and senior marketing major Beth Winship agreed that the program was just as rewarding for her as it was for the fourth graders. “I hope that we have been able to influence Mrs. Heffington’s class as strong role models so that each student feels encouraged to achieve their dreams and excel in their education, beginning by developing strong writing skills,” she said.

Although “What Will I Be?” is already published through blurb, interns will revisit Centerville Elementary School today to host a book release party. Each student will receive a copy of the book.

Fisk mentioned that she hoped they repeat this process next year.  “The

Pearce Center would love to do one book a year,” said Fisk. “This project has been so rewarding for both my interns and the elementary students.”

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