The Angels In Kaua‘i Classrooms

Kilauea Elementary School, where the Adopt-A-Classroom program was initiated. Photo courtesy Ric Cox.

Kilauea Elementary School, where the Adopt-A-Classroom program was initiated. Photo
courtesy Ric Cox.

You may not see any wings, but Ric Cox is an angel. Not only does the Princeville resident spend his free time tutoring North Shore elementary school students five days a week, he also donates money to the classrooms where he volunteers. This combination of generosity elevates him to “Angel” status in the program he developed through the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay called Adopt-A-Classroom.

“I love being around the kids and their enthusiasm and curiosity,” he says.

Cox serves as chairman of Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay’s New Generations committee, which distributes books to local public schools. Children’s books are purchased by the organization at a discounted price for elementary school students in Hanalei and Kilauea and are handed out free of charge.

“I’m told that, for a lot of the children here, this is the only book in their house and it’s the only book they’ve ever owned themselves,” explains Cox. “And they’re very grateful, particularly when they’re getting something they’ve never had before.”

Inspired by the success of the book distribution project, Cox thought it would be a great idea to ask keiki to write a review after reading their chosen story.

“It’s to encourage them to read it and get them to think critically,” he says.

A $25 reward is given for the best book review in each grade at the two schools.

Cox presents a check and certificate to a winner of the Rotary Book Review Contest, Kilauea Elementary School second-grader Kalei Mersberg, with principal Sherry Gonsalves

Cox presents a check and certificate to a winner of the Rotary Book Review Contest, Kilauea
Elementary School second-grader Kalei Mersberg, with principal Sherry Gonsalves

Cox’s diligent efforts to enhance New Generations led him to make connections with people who recalled that the Rotary Club once had a tutoring program, where members would visit schools once a week.

“It was very successful for several years, and then they discontinued it,” says Cox.

The retired Chicago editor thought the program ought to be reinstituted, and began tutoring a second-grader at Hanalei Elementary. He also eventually recruited about 10 Rotarians to tutor at Kilauea Elementary.

Volunteers, including Cox, began to notice that supplies, such as pencil sharpeners, were lacking in the classrooms. After taking it upon himself to purchase items for the classrooms, he realized that a program should be developed to embolden other tutors to help financially.

With Cox’s advocacy, his Rotary club was the first to develop the Adopt-A-Classroom program, which officially kicked off in January. Cox assists with matching volunteer tutors to students, and in turn, tutors have the option of donating $700 for classroom supplies.

“You get to know the kids, and you get to know the needs of the kids and the teacher, and then you put up the bucks,” explains Cox.

People can commit to both, becoming “Angels,” or they can choose to be either a tutor or a monetary sponsor.

“So everybody’s happy,” says Cox.

Since facilitating the program, all 27 classrooms at the two elementary schools have been adopted.

Cox, at Hanalei, developed the Adopt-A-Classroom program through the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay | Coco Zickos photos

Cox, at Hanalei, developed the
Adopt-A-Classroom program through the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay | Coco Zickos photos

MidWeek Kaua’i even had a part in lending a helping hand by spreading the word about Cox’s new undertaking through Amanda Gregg’s “Kaua’i Kine” column, and five classrooms were immediately sponsored by readers who saw the writeup.

To further the outreach of his new program, Cox currently is working with Kanuikapono Charter School and the Rotary Club of Kapa’a, in hope of adopting the Anahola school’s seven elementary classrooms.

“I hope to take it island-wide, step by step,” he says.

Since the need for tutors is greater at the elementary level, Cox eventually would like to initiate the program in the more than 200 classrooms across the Garden Isle.

“It’s a big, ambitious goal, but why not set it?” asks Cox, who moved to the island about two years ago and has been volunteering his time with the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay since the end of 2011.

“It’s an idea that can be spread,” he says. “One of the things about Rotary is that it’s an international organization, so that one club can start something and then the other clubs will hear about it and they can copy it. And then, there’s no reason these ideas can’t go international.”

Tutoring keiki has been an incredibly rewarding experience for Cox.

“The teachers and the principals tell me that one of the most valuable things about going into a classroom is not just the tutoring that you do on an educational level, but the fact that you feel love, and that you’re with them and dependable and a role model, in a sense,” he says. “Just showing up and being friendly with them is great.”

Contact Ric Cox at ric14@aol.com or 635-9300 for more information.

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