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Rebel Reading Challenge Kickoff At TMC On Wednesday

Runnin' Rebel Justin Hawkins reads at last year's event on the basketball floor at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Runnin' Rebel Justin Hawkins reads at last year's event on the basketball floor at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Nov. 13, 2012

LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLV Athletics and SuperPawn are once again teaming up with the Clark County School District (CCSD) to bring nearly 7,000 fourth and fifth grade students from 37 schools to the Thomas & Mack Center for the "Rebel Reading Challenge" Kickoff Celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 14 at 10:30 a.m.

The second annual event will feature appearances from UNLV coaches and student-athletes as well as local media personalities. Education leaders, including UNLV President Neal Smatresk and CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones will also attend and participate in the event that launches the "Rebel Reading Challenge," a 30-day competition designed to motivate students to read.

Created by SuperPawn and UNLV Athletics as a community outreach initiative four years ago, the Rebel Reading Challenge has evolved from a 16-school competition to include nearly 7,000 students from 37 schools this year. SuperPawn is underwriting the cost of busing the students to the Thomas & Mack along with other prizes. Spread the Word Nevada, a non-profit dedicated to literacy, is providing each student with a book.

According to officials, the event is also designed to bring students to a college campus to help them begin to think about life after high school. In fact, new this year, students from select schools arriving early for the event will take a tour of the UNLV campus provided by UNLV's Admissions Office.

"This is our community coming together to celebrate education and promote literacy," said Jim Livengood, UNLV's Director of Athletics. "And what better place to bring the students than to the campus of the city's university? We want young children to understand college is real. If they aspire to be here one day, they will. And it all starts with reading."

According to Caroline Ciocca, community relations director for SuperPawn, the theme for the competition remains "Read to Know. Read to Grow."

"Reading is the foundation for future success," said Ciocca. "The ability to read is not a luxury, it's an essential skill for success in the home, the classroom, the community and future employment. This program features a variety of relatable role models who will share their own personal stories about the importance of reading. Our hope is to inspire students with a fun and memorable experience that will stick with them well past the competition."

Classes at the participating schools will compete to see which class can read the most pages. The winning fourth and fifth grade classes win a trip to a UNLV men's basketball game as well as other prizes. All participating schools will also be provided a copy of the new book, "Go Rebels! Go! Fight! Win!" written by Mark Allen Benjamin.

"Through college athletics, we have a platform to do great things in this community and very few things are as important as challenging and inspiring young students to become passionate about reading," Smatresk said. "Without the fundamentals of reading, the education process stops."

According to Livengood, youth reading, along with youth health and wellness and parental involvement comprise UNLV Athletics' three core community outreach focus areas.

"Athletics creates opportunities for us to do special things in a community," Livengood said. "We are an important extension of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and our mission is two-fold. First, we want to grow our student-athletes academically, athletically and socially. And second, UNLV Athletics to make the Las Vegas community a better place to live. By involving our student-athletes in this effort with young students and partnering with businesses like SuperPawn, the Rebel Reading Challenge helps us to do both."

In Jones' two years as superintendent with the CCSD, he has been spreading the message of community collaboration to help education. He said the Rebel Reading Challenge program and event is a great example of what can happen.

"Literacy is the fundamental building block to success and the focus driving the reform of our education system," Jones said. "I am thrilled that private business, K-12 and higher education have come together to encourage our students to read."

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