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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : ORANGE

Pupils in Literacy Program Meet Its Noteworthy Backers

May 17, 2000|MARISSA ESPINO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Orange High School sophomore Olga Salce has transformed from a struggling reader to a blossoming student since participating in a literacy program at the Kathleen Muth Reading Center at Chapman University.

And, in part, the 16-year-old can thank actor Anthony Michael Hall for her academic turnaround.

Salce, and about 20 other Orange High students, participated in a curriculum called "Choose to Make Your Dreams a Reality," that focused on researching the lives of Hall and Apple Computers co-founder Steve Wozniak, who support the literacy program.

After reading books and watching movies about Wozniak and Hall, the students were able to meet the men Monday afternoon.

The students, who are struggling with reading and writing but express an eagerness to learn, voluntarily joined Chapman's literacy program last summer, and are mentored by Chapman graduate student teachers.

"It's really fun and I've improved in all of my classes," Salce said. "I feel more comfortable asking questions now."

Hall, known for his work in "The Breakfast Club" and "Weird Science," became involved in Chapman's literacy program two years ago when Bobbi Fisher, director of the reading center, wrote to ask him to send an autographed photo to Chapman for the "Famous People Love to Read Album."

Hall not only sent a handful of photos, he called Fisher to talk to her about the program. A few months later, the Anthony Michael Hall Literacy Club was formed.

"He has been very involved with the reading center," Fisher said. "These students are coming from an environment where they are not getting a lot of attention to all of a sudden, 'All these people care about what I'm doing.' Hopefully it is a boost."

Hall, who most recently starred in "Pirates of Silicon Valley," said he enjoys sharing his time with the students and thinks the program should serve as a national model for fighting illiteracy.

"I love being here. It's like a family to me," he said. "I think it's a really important program that is hands-on and really affecting the community."

After meeting with the high school students and signing autographs at the reading center, Hall and Wozniak attended the Southern California Film Festival at A Captain Blood's Village Theatre in Orange. Proceeds went toward the center.

Wozniak became involved with the literacy program last year after Hall, a friend, invited him to a Chapman reading center event.

"The program speaks for itself," Wozniak said. "I'm glad that Michael and myself can be here to motivate the students."

Marissa Espino can be reached at (714) 966-5879

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