GREECE — They spent all year racing through the pages of books.
So it was fitting that students from St. Lawrence School celebrated the end of their accelerated reader program June 1 by meeting a real race-car driver, 17-year-old Chris Bohlman, a member of Red Jacket High School’s Class of 2009.
The students even got an up-close look at Chris’ race car and cheered on St. Lawrence School Principal Joe Holleran as he raced Chris to see who could change a car tire the fastest using an air wrench.
During one instance, as Chris zip-zip-zip-zip-zipped the lug nuts off a tire, some students cheered while others yelled out, “Awww, snap!” Holleran said he became progressively quicker during the day but was no match for Chris’ practiced movements.
“He’s such a good sport; he’ll do anything for these kids,” Librarian Jeannine Fraser said of Holleran. “He’s in his shirt and tie and everything.”
Bohlman’s father, Lee, helped to arrange his son’s visit. Lee Bohlman owns an information-technology company and does contract work for diocesan schools.
While working at St. Lawrence, Lee Bohlman had talked about how his son races each weekend at Lake Erie Speedway in northeastern Pennsylvania, but Holleran said he didn’t make the connection until seeing the Bohlmans’ racing trailer one day. Soon, plans were in the works to tie a race-car reward to the school’s accelerated reader program.
“It was one of those serendipity, spirit-moving things,” Holleran remarked.
By the end of the year, students were ready to celebrate the 7,380 books they had read since September.
Students also raised $870 for Andrews Center, a foster home for children with special needs that is run by the Sisters of Mercy and is located on the Rochester-Irondequoit border. The students raised the money by earning points on quizzes about the books they read. For each 10 points, a student would earn $1 for Andrews Center. The fundraising effort spurred students on to keep reading, Fraser said.
“They recognize they are reading for the kids at the Andrews Center,” she said.
Holleran noted that students read so much that they exceeded the $500 school officials had set aside from St. Lawrence’s annual walkathon fundraiser to use for the potential Andrews Center donation. However, Sam’s Club generously offered a matching donation to help make up the difference, Holleran said.
In addition to earning money for Andrews Center, several students also earned the chance to participate in the race-car reward: The top point earner for each class climbed in through the race-car window and sat in the vehicle. Several runner-up readers got a chance to time the tire-changing competition.
The Bohlmans told the students how reading is important in race-car driving — for instance, drivers and their crew members need to read labels on bottles in order to tell the difference between a container of motor oil and a container of gear oil, Lee Bohlman noted.
Chris Bohlman, who autographed bookmarks for students, said his experience talking with the St. Lawrence students was “really cool.”
“They are really excited about the car, and that really made me happy,” said Chris, who will be going to NASCAR Technical Institute in August. He hopes to get on a NASCAR team and ultimately become a NASCAR driver.
Sixth-grader Molly Martin, 11, qualified to sit in Bohlman’s race car because she was one of the top point-earners for her class.
“(The car) was very cool,” Molly said. “There’s like a lot of stuff in there.”
Molly said she enjoyed reading 100 books during the school year.
“I like reading books because they supply knowledge, and they are exciting,” she stated.
As exciting as a race car?
“Yeah,” she said.