Spread the word

Some 2,000 third-grade students in Northwest Indiana will have their very own dictionaries to help in their studies as of this year, thanks to Al Fabian, professor and program chair of business at Ivy Tech Community College Gary Campus.


This is the fourth year Fabian has spearheaded efforts to raise money to purchase dictionaries and donate them to third-grade students in schools in the seven counties that make up Ivy Tech Northwest Region’s area.


Fabian is adviser of the local chapter of Kappa Beta Delta honor society for business students, which sponsors the program. “I stumbled across The Dictionary Project and it seemed like such a great idea,” he said.


He said 1,400 dictionaries have already been distributed, and another 600 are ready to be delivered “as soon as the snow allows.”


“The kids are very appreciative of receiving their own dictionaries,” he said. “In some higher-poverty pockets, some of the kids couldn’t afford one.”


Fabian’s efforts are part of The Dictionary Project, a nonprofit organization started in Charleston, S.C., in the mid-1990s to provide personal copies of a dictionary to third-grade students in the South Carolina public school system. Fabian said about 2 million dictionaries are distributed each year through the project.


Fabian said the books are distributed at different elementary schools each year, chosen at random, although he is limited in where he can bring the books. Kiwanis Clubs in Merrillville, Hobart and Gary also participate in the project, and have their own partner schools.


“I don’t want to duplicate efforts. I try to pick up schools where they’re not offered by some other group,” he said.


Fabian said half the funding for the dictionaries comes from faculty and staff at Ivy Tech with money they donate during an annual convocation at the school’s Valparaiso campus. The other half comes from other fundraising.


Fabian would like to extend the donations a step further.


“I’d like to take some dictionaries to the prison in Westville. They’re so short of supplies and books for people working on getting their GED,” he said. “I laid the groundwork, but haven’t gotten it through yet.”


The Portage Township resident has been an instructor at Ivy Tech for 23 years, the last 20 at its Gary campus.


“I love the Gary campus. People are very friendly and I would like to think I’m doing some good among the faculty, staff and students,” Fabian said.


Fabian also serves as adviser to the Business Club at the school, which does voter registration and participates in the Constitution Day program. He is a member and past president of Gary Kiwanis Club.