June 2001


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Written by

Kris Mamula


Culture shock. That’s what happened the first day Kristin Janocha reported to an inner-city school in Pittsburgh to work as a reading tutor for the America Reads Challenge, a Pitt effort that is part of a national program. What she found at the school was nothing that growing up in sleepy Punxsutawney 90 miles northeast of Pittsburgh had prepared her for. “I had no idea what I was getting into,” the sophomore psychology major says with a quick smile. “I had traveled, but I was really sheltered.” Punxsutawney is white picket fences and rolling farms; the elementary school where she tutors has barred windows and security lock buzzers. No matter, Janocha had found a home—and a passion.

The 20-year-old quickly threw herself into the work. Soon she was looking forward to the six hours a week that she spent helping kindergarten students to read. “Not a lot of people like to say, ‘I want to go to work,’ ” she says with a laugh. “I love to go to work.” Then one day a little girl came to school crying because she wasn’t able to do her assignment: Read a book at home. There were no books at home. That’s when Janocha really got started.

Back at the University Janocha organized a children’s book drive and fund-raisers to get books for the children. Along the way she found her career: working with children. “I stumbled upon it, and I’m very grateful.”

Janocha is realistic. “I’m not out to make everyone happy and safe and fine,” she says. “But I’m going to do as much as I can for as long as I can.”

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