Grants Support Literacy, Health and First-Generation Student Success


Lebanon, Ill. — Two grants awarded to McKendree University by the Phi Kappa Phi (PKP) national honor society will support health and wellness literacy in elementary school classrooms, and ease the transition to college for first-generation students and their families. A third grant awarded by the Illinois Reading Council will support families in transition.


Health and Wellness Literacy

A PKP literacy grant for $2,416 will fund a collaborative project with Lebanon Elementary School. Two groups of McKendree students--education majors, and health and wellness majors--will create original children's books, teacher workbooks and activity kits to promote healthy living.

"These are materials that teachers can use in their classrooms and activities that students can take home to their families to encourage good health," said Dr. Darryn Diuguid, assistant professor of education. The students will visit elementary school classrooms to read aloud to the children and lead them in activities, gaining practical teaching experience as a result.

Dr. Karan Onstott’s health and wellness students will create the workbooks and fill activity boxes with pedometers, jump ropes, Frisbees, balls, yoga and exercise DVDs, and sidewalk chalk, as well as instructions, tracking sheets and cookbooks.

I am very excited about this project,” said Onstott, assistant professor of health and wellness promotion. “As schools struggle to find enough time to include all content areas into the school day, this project will provide teachers with ways to incorporate health and wellness topics into math, science and reading. Research has shown that students are more alert and perform better in school when they are active and have a healthier diet.”

Bearcat Packs for First-Gens

A $746 grant will fund “Bearcat Packs” assembled by Phi Kappa Phi members and education majors for distribution to McKendree’s first-generation students and their families. Books and materials will be selected to educate and inspire students who are the first in their family to attend a four-year university, said Dr. Bethany Hill-Anderson, assistant professor of education and an officer of McKendree’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter.

“The materials in the Bearcat Packs will also inform and involve parents of our first-generation students about the culture, language and practices of higher education,” added Lisa Brennan, coordinator of first-generation student success at McKendree.

The Bearcat Packs are part of an institution-wide effort to retain and to graduate first-generation students. McKendree’s First-Generation Student Success Office and programs are funded in part by a grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Walmart Foundation and the CIC/Walmart College Success Awards.

Books for Families in Transition

A third grant, from the Illinois Reading Council, will fund the purchase of books for up to 50 children at the Family Living Center in East St. Louis, a transitional housing facility.

Dr. Darryn Diuguid and Dr. Bethany Hill-Anderson received this additional grant and will work with their 40 pre-service teachers from the university’s Children’s Literature and Methods of Teaching Social Sciences classes, as they join forces for this service learning project. They will choose age appropriate books and activities about multiculturalism and citizenship for four age groups: infants and toddlers, early childhood, elementary, and adolescents.

To encourage parental involvement, the book bags will also include puzzles, games, and questions for discussion. McKendree students in Children’s Literature will read aloud to the children and engage in extension activities when they visit the center to distribute the book bags later this year.