To encourage Palmer Elementary students to embrace a love of reading this month and beyond, NASA astronaut and WCHS graduate looked back almost 50 years.
“We put a person on the moon in 1969 when I was 9 years old. I was living in West Windsor and watched on a little black-and-white TV,” Wheelock told students from the NASA Johnson Space Center during a Skype call on Friday to kick off the school’s Pick-a-Reading Partner (PARP) program. “When we got back to school, my 4th grade teacher Christine West asked, ‘Who watched the moon landing?’ She said, ‘One day, that can be you, too.’ I thought she was crazy because we were in this little town going to C.R. Weeks (Elementary).”
But, it wouldn’t be crazy for Wheelock, who would become an astronaut, walk in space, and spend almost a year on the International Space Station. His trip to space may very well have begun in that 4th grade classroom at C.R. Weeks.
“Mrs. West said we can go there through reading,” said Wheelock. “I remember my third day as an astronaut, I was at a dinner with Neil Armstrong. I asked him what he thought about when he landed on the moon. He said, ‘I can’t believe a kid from the little town of Wapekoneta, Ohio could be here.’ And, I thought, ‘That’s me, too.’”
Wheelock told students that whatever their dreams are, the first step to making them come true may be found in a book.
“Listen to your teachers because your teachers love you and they want to help you find your passion. That begins with a love of reading,” said Wheelock.
It was a sentiment that those teachers echoed, and students heard.
“What we strive to do is show them the importance of reading, no matter what they want to do with their lives,” said teacher Jamie Leach.
“I learned that reading is important, no matter what your dreams,” said 5th grader Nico Soriano.
Wheelock’s call to Palmer isn’t the only highlight to the PARP program, which will take place at all three Windsor CSD elementary schools. Jordan Patch, owner of Animal Adventure, is kicking off PARP at C.R. Weeks Elementary. He is giving free admission to Animal Adventure to every student in all three Windsor elementary schools who successfully completes PARP.
From Friday March 1 - Friday March 8th, Bell Elementary in Kirkwood will also host PARP week. This year, the theme is sports with the idea that "Reading is the Goal". A number of surprise athletes from around the area may be making their way to the school as guest readers.