It is easy to become entrenched in our own schedules, to tell ourselves we will offer service to a stranger when this test is over, this lecture is written or this project deadline has been met. It’s even easier to become complacent in the comfort of our own community. Then something small, like the hug of a grateful (and uninhibited) pre-kindergartener, stops you dead in your tracks, and you realize it is never a convenient time to give of yourself, but it is always necessary.
That’s what accounting instructor Jeanne Eibes, MAcc, experienced at this year’s KPMG-sponsored literacy event held Nov. 3 at Yates Educational Community Partnership in the Gifford Park neighborhood near campus. Eibes returned to Yates with Beta Alpha Psi (BAP) students to help its corporate partner foster of love of learning and literacy through hands-on activities and storytelling. It was the second year the outreach took place at Yates, and one student approached Eibes, told her she remembered her from last year and then promptly wrapped her arms around Eibes’ neck.
“Yates teachers have told us that their children really enjoyed interacting with the Creighton kids,” says Eibes. “But I personally experienced this with that one hug!”
KPMG’s Family for Literacy program is a national campaign to eradicate childhood illiteracy through interaction in such events as the Yates outreach and through the donation of books to students in need. Thus far, the number of donated books tops 3 million, and literacy events occur across the nation with local BAP chapters and at BAP conventions.
Creighton BAP students attending the national convention this past August in Anaheim, California. met with area school children to read books and play games. “That experience fueled the officers to encourage other BAP members to participate in this type of event here in Omaha,” says Eibes.
Senior accounting and business intelligence and analytics double major Joe Keck is the director of service and support for Creighton’s Beta Alpha Psi chapter. After hearing glowing reports of last year’s inaugural event at Yates, the Lincoln, Nebraska. native knew he wanted to build on its success. The theme of Yate’s academic year is “Building Study.” Accordingly, volunteers rotated children between three stations: building with boxes, making houses out of graham crackers and frosting, and playing with wooden and cardboard blocks. The event culminated with students returning to their classrooms where Creighton and KPMG volunteers read Jack’s House by Karen Magnuson Beil and Let’s Build a House by Brita Granström and Mick Manning.
“The initial concern was managing 75 kids and maintaining their attention with each activity,” says Keck. “However, our volunteers did an excellent job of engaging the children and making sure everyone was involved.”
BAP president Tim Vleisides, a senior accounting major from St. Louis, sees service experiences as a gift to those volunteering because they are “opportunities to engage with new people and perspectives, which play a huge role in forming leaders at Creighton” and beyond. Two recent alums, Matt McNary, BSBA’16, and Matt Wenz, BSBA’17, work at KPMG and participated in the event.
Events like the one at Yates, says Vleisides, “reinforce our roles as service providers in the accounting and financial service fields” and demonstrate the importance of creativity and literacy.
Katie McDermott, an ESL-Pre-K teacher at Yates, says interaction with KPMG and Creighton volunteers builds social and language skills in her students, the majority of which speak languages other than English. “Just looking at the pictures and naming what they see is a great first step to reading,” she says.
In addition to her ESL classroom, Yates has three other pre-kindergarten programs: migrant, Native American and special education. Exposure to books is vital to students’ success in school, but many families are new to the U.S. and are without books in their homes. Thus, KPMG’s gift of free books is such a thrill for the students.
“Yates is an educational community partnership, and it’s so wonderful to team up with different partners in the neighborhood, such as Creighton, to help our community grow,” says McDermott. “Every time Creighton has done an event with us, the students are so involved and interactive with our little ones. It gives them positive role models to look up to.”
Whether its literacy advocacy or some other cause near to your heart, Vleisides believes the cause served is not as important as the act itself: “Consider where you can make an impact in the lives of others.”