PORTSMOUTH — Shawnee State University student, Abbigale Ruggles’ (Hometown: Wheelersburg, Ohio) love for education led her to where she feels she belongs as an Intervention Specialist K-12 major within the School of Education.

“As I started to take more and more deaf studies courses and became more involved with my studies, I knew that deaf education was calling my name,” she said. “So, my minor really led the way to my major of Intervention Specialist. The more I immerse myself in my education courses, the more certain I am that I’m exactly where I need to be.”

Connecting with SSU’s Project BEAR: Building Emerging & Achieving Readers, Ruggles has found the opportunity to develop her teaching skills while directly impacting students’ literacy abilities. The Project BEAR program works to enhance early literacy instruction for children from birth to age five.

“Since my degree is focusing on supplementing and supporting special needs in academic, emotional, and behavioral situations, I wanted to position myself towards a job that would align with the same topics and principles that I’m learning in my education courses,” she said. “Project BEAR’s focus on literacy enrichment has provided a unique insight into the language acquisition of pre-kindergarten and kindergarten-ready children that I will be able to supplement and expand on with the special needs children I will serve in my future classroom.”

Ruggles recently participated in Project BEAR’s College for Kids summer session, designed to engage students in hands-on instruction that would improve their language and literacy capabilities.

“Our classroom was ‘Born to be Wild’ themed and we targeted on introducing the kids to the continent of Africa and the indigenous animals that call the safari home,” she said. “Each day we focused on two different animals in Africa and prepared various activities to engage play, elicit critical thinking, refine gross motor skills, and promote language and writing acquisition.”

In the College for Kids session, there were six BEAR members in charge of the individual small groups while Hayley Venturino, Director of Project BEAR, then brought the full group together to discuss the kids’ thoughts and perspectives on what they learned each day.

“My favorite part was probably when the kids would recite the pieces of information that I had shared with them in the stations that I taught,” said Ruggles. “I felt the warm and fuzzy feeling of accomplishment through the kiddos’ accomplishment and that feeling is absolutely unmatched. I was so proud of all those kids and watching them grow so much in just a short week was truly a great experience.”

Through her time in Project BEAR this summer, Ruggles is passionate about the positive impact the program has on the community overall.

“In Scioto County, 31% of children are living in poverty and don’t have access to the opportunities and community involvement that is required to build and develop language skills,” she said. “The children in this area are faced with a colossal barrier that greatly stunts their development, which puts them further behind the average once they’re in school. The importance of Project BEAR in this area is that this program is supplementing the resources and opportunities necessary for children to get back on track in their early literacy development.”

Enjoying her experience in Project BEAR, Ruggles feels she is exactly where she is supposed to be in her education and in pursuing her future career.

“Since being a part of the change and watching our literacy enrichment efforts firsthand and the incredible instructional results it produces, I can’t imagine being anywhere else,” she said.

Shawnee State University’s Project BEAR is funded by an AmeriCorps grant through ServeOhio – the state of Ohio’s Commission on Service & Volunteerism. The program serves classrooms in over 40 schools in Scioto County and works towards promoting equity and re-establishing language acquisition in and out of the classroom.” To learn more about Project BEAR, contact Hayley Venturino, Director of Project BEAR, at (740) 351-3059.