Girl, 12, gives up recess to tutor younger pupils


Sixth-grader Katie Jerabek has given up recesses, lunch periods and morning free time to help others, volunteering as a Big Sister Tutor at West Meade Elementary School.

Last week, Katie, who helps youngsters who have trouble reading and writing, was honored as one of the winners of the 11th annual Maryland JCPenney Golden Rule Volunteer Awards.

For her efforts, West Meade received a $1,000 grant and Katie received a sculpture in a private ceremony.

Barbara Mason, her principal at West Meade, says the school will use the money to create a courtyard for students to use for reading.

They'll call it Katie's Court, she says.

"It is reassuring to know that there are still people who will extend a hand to those in need, no matter how harsh, strident and fast-paced times may have become," says William Ceglia, a store manager and Golden Rule Awards Chairman for JCPenney.

Katie, 12, tutors third-grader Luis Lebron, 8, in reading.

Katie began helping Luis, whose family speaks Spanish, after the school's reading specialist asked for student tutors.

"He's moved up more than a year's reading level," the sixth-grader says.

The two take turns reading to each other during their 30-minute tutorial sessions each morning before class.

"Katie became immediately dedicated to what she was doing," says Ms. Mason, who nominated the A-student for the Golden Rule Award.

"She never lets anything stand in her way," Ms. Mason says.

Described by Ms. Mason as free spirited and friendly, Katie also is "an ambassador in many ways."

Katie lost her left leg to bone cancer and uses an artificial limb. She speaks occasionally to young cancer patients at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, where her leg was amputated, and encourages them to be strong.

"We are real proud of what she's accomplished," says her mother, Karen Jerabek.

"She's determined to lead a normal life. The doctors says her walking is wonderful and now she's teaching herself how to run," she says.

Katie is looking forward to traveling to Dallas in September for the JCPenney National Golden Rule Volunteer Awards, where TC panel of social-service leaders is to select a national winner and one finalist in each of four categories: Adult, Group, Youth and Education.

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