Daily Light staff writer

During the past few weeks, visitors to Waxahachie ISD’s elementary schools may have been witness to something out of the ordinary.

They could have seen students lined up outside the school, cheering the arrival of a firetruck with its lights flashing, firefighters spilling out and then turning to help two young children dismount the vehicle.

The special trips to school were part of Waxahachie Fire-Rescue’s inaugural reading contest, in which students from all four of the district’s elementaries participated, firefighter Dusty Griffin said.

Griffin, the driving force behind organizing and operating the program, originally got the idea from a friend of his in the Lewisville Fire Department.

The LFD already has a similar program, Griffin said, adding that its program was the inspiration for Waxahachie’s.

“It just seemed like an interesting program to help get us out into the public,” Griffin said.

After devising his own system for running it, Griffin ran his idea by both the firefighter association’s president and by Fire Chief David Hudgins before beginning work on it.

Both men supported the idea, and told him to run with it, Griffin related.

Working with the WISD’s Melissa Cobb, Griffin designed a two-week reading program for the students, during which time they would read as many minutes as they could. The two readers logging the most minutes would then be declared the winners and would receive a prize package.

Griffin said the department chose to measure minutes instead of pages read for a simple reason: Some children read faster than others. However, a minute is a minute, regardless of how fast you read, Griffin said, adding that the prize package included a Waxahachie Fire-Rescue patch and a poster and basketball signed by Desmond Mason, a Waxahachie High School graduate who now plays for the NBA’s New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.

However, the most visible part of the prize package involved something much larger.

After the winners were determined, the WFD worked with the school to find a proper date to take each winning pair to school one morning in one of the department’s engines, delivering them to their schools to warm receptions.

For this task, the firefighters came in on their days off and got the students to school in the department’s reserve engine, Hudgins said.

The program’s winners averaged reading more than 1,000 minutes during the two-week period, with the highest total coming from Christa Rodriguez of Wedgeworth Elementary, who read 2,361 minutes. In a close second was Shackelford’s Sierra Johnson, who logged 2,178 minutes.

All said, the sum total of the top five students at each school combined was 21,310 minutes, a sum higher than the total minutes in the fortnight the program ran.

Taking the top honors at each school were Rodriguez and Alexandria Moore at Wedgeworth, Johnson and Allison Webb at Shackelford, Max Navarro and Olivia Rehonic at Dunaway, and Abigail Melick and Nicole Almond at Northside.

“Some of the public things we do are tedious, and I guess not as fun,” Griffin said. “But most of the guys I talked to really enjoyed doing it, and it was good to get us out in the public too.”

Other public service programs the department is involved with include Fill the Boot, the Waxahachie Lions Club Mini-Grand Prix, and Fire Safety Month during October.

E-mail Anthony at Anthony.Trojan@waxahachiedailylight.com