February 29, 2012
Philanthropy on Wheels: BP Donates Bus to Cocky's Reading Express
On Feb. 21, BP America rolled out a gift of great benefit to Carolina student volunteers who crisscross the state to bring early literacy into schools.
The unveiling of a new 22-passenger Allstar Ford bus means that the Cocky’s Reading ExpressTM
program no longer needs to rely on cramped, nondescript minivans that bear no semblance to the promise they hold. Featuring a larger-than-life Cocky graphic and program logo, the shiny addition was greeted on Greene Street by a throng of students, alumni, and literacy leaders—and Cocky, of course.
Cocky’s Reading Express is a highly successful outreach program of the School of Library and Information Science, part of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies.
“BP is pleased to be a corporate sponsor of Cocky’s Reading Express,” said Crystal Ashby, executive vice president of BP America. “We are proud to share with children the joy of reading, which supports the goal to raise literacy levels in the state.”
Outreach to Schools, Libraries Creates Indispensable Program
Since the inception of Cocky's Reading Express in 2005, nearly 400 Carolina student volunteers, joined by the university’s highly popular Gamecock mascot, have led visits in 33 of the state’s 46 counties. To date, more than 39,000 books have been distributed at nearly 240 events.
“The Cocky’s Reading Express bus will enhance the program’s success and enable more students, even entire sports teams or University 101 classes, to volunteer,” said Kim Jeffcoat, executive of the South Carolina Center for Children’s Books and Literacy.
BP Connects with CRE after Documentary Airs
BP officials took interest in Cocky’s Reading Express several years ago. A program documentary explained the outreach and its positive impact in underserved schools in rural parts of the state. BP recognized the logistical challenges, and since 2009 has provided support to purchase books to be donated to students, produce literacy materials, and now enable the program to travel wherever needed.
Program support has also come from Bi-Lo, Verizon, the Central Carolina Community Foundation, and the Barbara Bush Family Literacy Foundation. Until February, however, the program relied on state minivans for transport, a situation that created logistical issues. That is no longer the case: the bus is dedicated solely for Cocky’s Reading Express with “extras” that include DVD players and screens. They will be used to train students en route to elementary schools, primary schools, and community libraries, Jeffcoat said.
The announcement event also included remarks from University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides
, Charles Bierbauer
, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies; Sig Huitt
, chairman of the college’s Carolina’s Promise Capital Campaign; and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin
USC’s student government association, led by then-student body treasurer Tommy Preston, '11
, law, launched Cocky’s Reading Express in 2005. He became SGA president the next year and is now a lawyer with Nexsen Pruet in Columbia. “I truly believe that people are seeing the impact that our program is having on the state, and they want to do their part to foster its growth,” Preston said.