Pine Tree Junior High School administrators, teachers and students celebrated the addition of a book vending machine this past week provided by the Greater Longview United Way and Wellness Pointe.

“We are so excited to partner with Greater Longview United Way for our beautiful new book vending machine we have for our students,” Principal Lisa Sawyer said. “We are excited because when students get to the junior high level they have so may activities and things that pull their attention, so getting them excited about reading is something we work on every day, and I can tell you right now these kids are very excited about the book vending machine.”

This is the third vending machine installed at local campuses as part of the Greater Longview United Way’s Read to Succeed program with three more celebration events scheduled.

Previous machines were installed at Spring Hill Intermediate School and Chandler Elementary School in Kilgore.

“A lot of focus happens with the lower grades for academic readiness, which is important, but as the father of a seventh-grader, I understand like (Sawyer) said, there are lots of things that can pull on their time,” said Evan Dolive, Greater Longview United Way executive director. “So when the grant committee got together to look at where we wanted to put these machines at, we picked Pine Tree Junior High because we wanted to make sure junior high kids have access to this as well.

“We are excited to be here. We are excited that you guys have this machine, and we can’t wait to hear all the great success stories that are going to come out of this.”

Wellness Pointe is giving the six schools to receive the vending machines $1,000 for the next fie years to offset the costs of books, Dolive said.

“To me, Wellness Pointe donating money and the United Way (donating) the machines, it just goes to show you that a school is part of the community,” Superintendent Steve Clugston said. “They have always said, ‘It takes a village to raise kids.’ Well, this is part of the village, and if we all work together, we can be a lot more successful at making these young people successful and turn them out as successful adults that will go out and make our community a little better than it is today.”

Eighth-grader Cason Stafford said he is excited at the large selection of books available in the vending machine. He said he’s looking forward to getting the book, “I Survived the American Revolution, 1776” by Lauren Tarshis.

“I think this is going to be great for the students in this school,” Cason said. “It is definitely going to be fun for students to work for the tokens to get a book.”

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Michael Cavazos is a multimedia journalist specializing in photography. A Kilgore native, he studied photography at Kilgore College and Stephen F. Austin State University. Michael enjoys visually documenting life in East Texas.