APSO introduces Sunshine Foundation to primary schools

Brandie Richardson @B_lifestyles

     Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office began its first trial phases of incorporating the Sunshine Foundation's reading program into primary schools in Ascension Parish.

     G.W. Carver and Donaldsonville Primary were the first chosen to receive the program due to the schools being highly rated title one schools. Title one is the largest federally funded program donating over $14 billion to school systems across the country for students at risk of failure and living at or near poverty levels, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

     Kindergarten students at both schools were read You Are Sunshine by an Ascension Parish law enforcement officer. The book is designed to address children's self-esteem issues and to provide information to care-givers on how to build positive self-concepts.

     “I want children to understand that there is something good inside everyone of them no matter what their circumstances are, and to understand that adult problems are not because of them,” said author Shirley Porter.

     Porter worked with Pennington Biomedical Research Center and nutritionists to gather information for the book, which also promotes exercise and healthy eating.

     Major Ward Webb of the Sheriff's Office said the responses from educators and law enforcement officials were all positive, thus making the Sunshine Project a permanent program in primary schools throughout the Parish.

     Webb added that APSO intends to expand the program into all schools, starting with Lakeside Primary and Duplessis Primary. Next school year, the Sheriff's Office plans on reading at every primary school in the Parish every year.

     “It teaches [kindergarten students] to interact better with law enforcement officers because in today’s world, with the reputations that we have, its important that five and six year olds know that they can come to us for help,” Webb said. “I think it builds a bridge between community and law enforcement to where there is better community relations for everyone.”

     The Sunshine Project began in 1998 with the purpose of encouraging reading to young children while building bonds between adults and children. Since its founding, over 700,000 books have been given to children as part of the program. Funding to continue to foundation comes from private donations and sponsors, along with an annual gala that attracts many new sponsors.