Realtors Spread the Love and Read to PUSD Students

Photo by Nick Ostiller / OUTLOOK Representatives of the first annual Read Across PASadena program at Washington Accelerated Elementary School include (front row, from left) Pasadena Educational Foundation board member Jacqueline Jacobs and Washington students Jennifer Gonzalez and  Cesar Castelo. Back: Realtors Brock Worthen, Gus Ruelas, Alex Lozano, Drea Valentine and Carrie Benuska.
Photo by Nick Ostiller / OUTLOOK
Representatives of the first annual Read Across PASadena program at Washington Accelerated Elementary School include (front row, from left) Pasadena Educational Foundation board member Jacqueline Jacobs and Washington students Jennifer Gonzalez and Cesar Castelo. Back: Realtors Brock Worthen, Gus Ruelas, Alex Lozano, Drea Valentine and Carrie Benuska.

For real estate agents in Pasadena, most mornings can include everything from open houses to client meetings to market research. Reading Dr. Seuss books is not generally deemed a common practice along the path toward achieving success in the industry. But that didn’t stop more than 80 local Realtors from flipping through such titles as “The Lorax” at various Pasadena Unified School District campuses earlier this month during the first annual Read Across PASadena initiative.
The purpose of their daily visits was simply to read aloud to kindergartners through 5th-graders as a way to forge connections between the real estate community and PUSD. Sponsored by the Pasadena Educational Foundation — an organization devoted to building partnerships in support of PUSD — the multi-day program saluted National Read Across America Week, a yearly celebration of reading that honors the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
“Reading comprehension is one of the major challenges that our students have,” said Pasadena Educational Foundation board member Jacqueline Jacobs. “With the Foundation, we support a lot of things. But this is one that we must help our students with to let them learn early that reading is fun — as fundamental as it is.”
A total of 17 elementary schools participated in the event, which was inspired by Collaborate PASadena, a coalition of public organizations and individuals working to solidify the greater Pasadena area as a supportive environment for its children.
“I was really excited to be a part of this movement,” said Brock Worthen of Keller Williams Realty. “Our Realtors who meet with clients at the front end of this are the ones who have the power and the voice to change the perception of Pasadena Unified. This is just the start. I really wanted to come and hopefully impact some children who wanted a male figure. I have a passion for kids, and I just enjoy giving back and serving.”
Worthen was one of five Realtors who descended upon Washington Accelerated Elementary School for a morning of classroom reading. Another was Carrie Benuska of the John Aaroe Group, who spearheaded the recruitment effort. Benuska said she hoped that the initiative “impacted each of the Realtors in a profound way.” The remaining three at Washington were Gus Ruelas and Alex Lozano of the John Aaroe Group as well as Drea Valentine of Keller Williams Realty.
“A couple of the kids asked ‘What’s a Realtor? They had no idea, so they got to learn something new,” said Ruelas, who read to 5th-graders. “I think that’s a really, really great thing, and the kids were engaged. It was a lot of fun. Just being introduced to new people, aside from just reading, it almost felt a little bit like career day. Anytime you can expose kids to different people who do different things, I think it’s educational.
“The big takeaway is we need to remember how important is to get involved. The schools are in desperate need of community involvement.”
Additional Read Across PASadena partners include the United Teachers of Pasadena, California School Employees Association, Reading Partners, Reading Is Fundamental of Southern California and the Pasadena Public Library.
At Washington, curriculum resource teacher Debbie Afsharian welcomed the Realtors to campus and escorted them to their assigned classrooms for the morning. After the sessions, she explained why her school was interested in becoming a part of the inaugural Read Across PASadena campaign.
“We want to instill a love of reading in every student and we want to be a culture of reading,” said Afsharian. “To connect with our community, that has been our passion and our goal. We want to make sure we bring it into the classroom, and this is a great opportunity to open our school to people such as the Realtors so that they can come and be part of that building, part of that learning community, part of that education for our students.”
Participating real estate agencies besides those represented at Washington included Berkshire Hathaway, Coldwell Banker, Deasy/Penner, Dilbeck, Podley Properties, Sotheby’s and Partners Trust.
“This amazing response from the Realtors of the greater Pasadena area is a milestone for our district,” said PUSD Superintendent Brian McDonald in a release. “Meaningful partnerships such as Read Across PASadena inspire the imagination and creativity of our children and bring together businesses and schools to make our neighborhoods and communities stronger.”
The experience was somewhat of a walk down memory lane for Ed Afsharian. The Podley Properties agent read to 1st-graders at Webster Elementary School, his alma mater, where the halls were not as wide as he remembered from his time attending the school all those years ago. Besides storytelling, Afsharian also engaged the young students in conversation and tested their burgeoning spelling abilities as an interactive way to further the learning process.
“We should all, as a community, support our school district,” said Ed Afsharian. “I think it has a lot to do with our community. It has a lot to do with real estate and the values of our homes, too. It’s important that we all work together in the community to support our schools.”

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