HICKORY — Second-grade students from Clyde Campbell Elementary School gathered at St. Stephens Park on Monday morning as the first visitors of the new LITeracy Trail.
The LITeracy Trail is a project by the 2017 Catawba County Leadership Academy and has been installed at St. Stephens and Bakers Mountain parks with plans for an additional installation at Riverbend Park.
The trails house a network of kiosks equipped with QR codes to help children learn more about the story and give readers a task to complete.
“We wanted to focus on education and literacy, healthy and active living, and diversity and culture,” Leadership Academy participant ShaVodka Nowacki said. “Through the efforts of stakeholders, the vision has become a reality.”
The Catawba County Leadership Academy has been in existence since 2013, where county employees are nominated by their department head and then complete an application process.
“The program has four outcomes — the first is to provide opportunities and experiences that encourage the development of diverse leaders and decision makers,” Assistant County Manager Dewey Harris said.
The second outcome is to instill a sense of mission, service and professionalism in participants, he said.
The third outcome being to demonstrate a proactive approach in succession planning in county leadership, Harris added.
“Lastly, (the program) develops a group of employees with competencies required to address emerging issues and challenges in local government,” Harris said.
Nowacki and other participants have worked on the project since early 2017.
“A true partnership has been forged between the Catawba County Parks and Planning department, the county library system and the K-64 initiative by the county school (systems),” Nowacki said.
Catawba County Library Director Suzanne White said the LITeracy Trail was an idea that had been on their mind for a while.
“It was so exciting when the Leadership Academy wanted to pursue it,” White said. “What I like about it is the collaboration between the county departments and creating something for the kids to explore, grow and learn.”
The excitement White described also was felt by Clyde Campbell Elementary School Principal Adrienne Dula and students.
“(The LITeracy Trail is) a great addition, and we are excited that it’s only a five-minute walk from our school,” Dula said. “It’s so easily accessible for the school and we have already added it on our regular schedule of field trips.”
The school’s second-grade students were the first visitors of the park. Their own excitement was uncontainable as they strolled through the trail.
“We chose second grade to come through because their social studies curriculum discusses communities and the book choice fits so well,” Dula said.
The first book featured on the LITeracy Trail is “All the World” by Liz Garton Scanlon and was chosen by Leadership Academy participant Lorraine Saporito.
“It is a story of unity, of introspection, of community, culture and diversity — everything that we are in Catawba County,” Saporito said. “Even though (the book is) for kids, it has a much deeper meaning.”
Featured books are planned to be changed quarterly, with the possibility of special installations as well.
As Saporito thanked the second-grade students for being the academy’s inspiration, she ended with a quote from the featured book.
“All the world is here, it is there, it is everywhere. All the world is right where you are.”