Normally, youngsters in their early teens don't need a reason to dance the night away, but with the help of two Penn State-Berks (PSU) Elementary Education students, a throng of middle schoolers "cut a rug" with a purpose. Last Dec.14, PSUBerks sophomores Kahlie Long and Mathew Kovalich (also with a concentration in Kindergarten Education) directed a "Dance for the Cure" fundraiser at Northeast Middle School in Reading.About 225 teens enjoyed the music, delicious snacks, and special photo ops with the Nittany Lion mascot. They felt satisfaction helping fellow young people in their fight against a deadly disease.

A sum of $1,022 was collected from ticket proceeds, pizza and glow stick sales and was promptly turned over to the directors of THON, which is the annual dance marathon dedicated to charitable and philanthropic activities.

All 16 satellites and University Park campus contribute annually, as well, Kahlie said.

Actually, the University's alumni association was so impressed with the Dance for the Cure, they matched the sum placing the total profits at over $2,000, she added happily.

PSU's THON is the largest student-run charity in the world, directly benefiting the Four Diamonds Fund, who supports families currently struggling with pediatric cancer.

Throughout the Commonwealth, THON collected about $5.5 million from its various activities last year alone.

The Penn State Educational Partnership Program (PEPP), under the direction of the Penn State College of Education on campus, operates an after school program on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at Northeast Middle School.

Through the program, Long and Kovalich are currently helping about 30 to 40 students with their homework, mastering study skills, fostering activities that promote individual and social growth and encouraging them to contemplate a college career of their own.

They admitted the idea of affording them a chance to "make even a small difference in their community" through a dance fundraiser came out of the afternoon program at Northeast.

The duo also enlisted the help of several of the youngsters to tackle the pre-dance activities, such as, advertising the event, decorating the site, collecting and accounting for the funding bounty.

Long and Kovalich also directed an educational assembly two weeks prior to the fundraiser explaining the purpose THON and how each of their efforts could result in finding a cure for pediatric cancer.

They even arraigned for the faculty and students to participate in "Jeans Day" on the afternoon of the big dance, whereby they would donate a dollar to the cause in exchange for wearing jeans on that day.

In addition to raising valuable funds to fight this disease, PEPP works with the area students who are typically "academically underrepresented" at the middle and high school levels.

Kovalich said Berks has a requirement for all education majors to put in 60 hours of service.

"But Kahlie and I stayed with PEPP as an extra-curricular activity, because we enjoy these kids so much."

Presently, PEPP provides these services to McKeesport, Philadelphia and Reading School Districts in an effort to have these students realize their full scholastic potential.

Aside from the school of education's observation requirements, Penn State-Berks hires Elementary and Secondary Majors as PEPP associates ( as in the case of Kovalich and Long) to carry out these supplementary educational efforts and assist in identifying area PEPP students.

As for being a positive influence on the intercity children they work with, the two said they may be the only college students these 8th graders have ever met, proving that the chance for them to receive an education is theirs, also.

"I have been a PEPP learning assistant at Northeast Middle School for two years now," said Kovalich recently.

"These are some of the greatest kids I've ever seen, and I wanted to show them that they can really make a difference."

And Long chimed in, "This was our chance to help these (PEPP) kids do something really amazing such as, participating in finding a cure for cancer To feel really feel good about themselves."

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