Posted by Ray Bastarache on Jan 11, 2019
When the clock struck nine on Tuesday morning, January 8, approximately 22 Lynn Rotarians and a few friends entered the third grade classrooms of Lynn Public School students armed with gifts - new student dictionaries. This is the 11th year that the Lynn Club has participated in the highly successful “Dictionary Project”, due in large measure to the financial support of the project’s sponsor, Equitable Bank, and the leadership of Lynn Rotarian Jim Harris, who has spearheaded this initiative since its inception back in 2008. The logistics of providing every public school third grader with a dictionary is daunting to say the least when one considers there are 19 elementary schools in Lynn, the eighth largest school district in Massachusetts. In addition, Lynn's third grade enrollment fluctuates daily, due in large part to the high mobility of its population. For example, the third grade enrollment moved up and down 50 students since September from 1200-1250. “Truth be told, I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have Jim (Harris) taking the ball on this massive project,” admitted President Brenda Peral. “The Club is so lucky to have him. Our members know that to succeed in school and in life in America, you must be able to use the English language effectively.”
Harris starts working on the project months before the day of distribution. He first seeks approval of the funding source, Equitable Bank. Then he orders the books, arranges for a drop-off point, seeks out fellow Rotarians who come in and place labels on the inside covers for students to write their names, and to box them by school according to the most recent enrollment data provided the the district’s Parent Information Center. Once the books are delivered to each school, Harris creates a schedule of Rotarians that insures coverage of all schools. “I’ve been doing it for so long long now, that it’s become pretty easy,” admitted the humble Harris, a retired hospital executive. “I get great support from many members, but it truly is a labor of love. I remind all our members that they emphasize to each student that these books are theirs to keep and not to turn in at the end of the school year."