WSU student fights illiteracy through Storytime Village fellowship


Amanda Phanivong, a Wichita State University junior studying integrated marketing communication, recently began a fellowship with the Kansas-based Storytime Village Inc. While working there with their marketing and special events cohort, Phanivong has fully embraced her time with the Storytime team.

Storytime Village’s mission is to inspire a lifelong love of reading for underserved Kansas children younger than 8.

In the spirit of the mission, Phanivong and her team have worked on branding and coordinating event logistics for the Read and Rise Breakfast Gala Fundraiser Sept. 3, and the Literacy through the Arts Conference Sept. 2-3. The events both take place at Wichita State University. Her team was also responsible for designing signage, posters, flyers, social media graphics, maps, booklets, stickers, buttons, shirts and providing the vision for both events.

Phanivong says these projects have given her a chance to apply her marketing skill outside the classroom.

“In the classroom, I mainly focus on structure and the material being taught. This experience challenged me to develop unique ways to be innovative and resourceful in my community, all while keeping the mission of 'inspiring a lifelong love of reading' in mind. I was able to gain a greater understanding of myself and truly take an active role in the nonprofit sector,” said Phanivong.

“In Kansas, over two-thirds of fourth-grade students are not reading at grade level, and that number goes up when we look at students from underserved communities,” said Sydney Calcagno, Storytime Village program director. “Storytime Village understands that books open doors to opportunities, new worlds and experiences, and overall builds self-esteem in children. For that reason, we strive to give every child in Kansas an opportunity for a better future through literacy.”

Phanivong, a Wichita native, says her background as a WSU student has already helped her contribute significantly to the Storytime Village mission and its team.

“Being in such a diverse atmosphere at WSU has helped, because diversity can come in a lot of different forms; it can be in the way you think or the way you see the world,” she said. “I think that it is important to work within a non-profit organization to keep in mind all of the different viewpoints people have and trying to address them in the best way possible.”

Calcagno says this broadened outlook is a large part of what she hopes Storytime fellows receive in the program.

“The Storytime Village Summer fellowship is designed as an opportunity for young adults to develop skills that will lead to successful careers in the non-profit field and beyond,” Calcagno said. “We hope that all of our fellows walk away more invested in our community and with a desire to continue actively serving others, as well as with hands-on experience that will lead to future career opportunities … Whether it’s distributing books, creating a marketing campaign, or designing effective tools for raising literacy awareness, the tasks at hand are ones that both challenge our summer fellows and make a positive impact in our Kansas community.”

Though Phanivong says she has had a few other internships, working as a marketing fellow for Storytime Village has also allowed her to work with a team, an experience she says she would like to build on for her future career in marketing, advertising, and public relations.

“I am grateful that through this fellowship I am able to apply the skills that I have, but I’m also able to build on my personal and professional skills within a cohort setting. Having that opportunity to collaborate and create something really impactful for the community, that’s really what this is all about.”

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