Wednesday, a CSU student dressed as Harry Potter sat in Bauder Elementary School reading to a group of children who scooted closer and closer to him with every turn of the page â€“â€“ their wide eyes watched him unblinkingly.
Freshman psychology major Christof Bentele was dressed as the classic childrenâ€™s book character as part of CSUâ€™s newest community service group, Colorado Wizards of Justice, that brings the magic of Harry Potter to real life.
Brooks Yates and his third grade class welcomed Bentele to read Dr. Seuss books and answer questions about what itâ€™s like to be a student at CSU.
Bentele and other members of CWJ were deployed across the Fort Collins area to read to children as part of Read Across America. This program involves volunteers in nationwide bookstores and elementary schools reading to children in celebration of Dr. Seussâ€™ birthday.
The school participates in Read Across America every year and looks forward to volunteers.
â€œIt expands the realm that their in and says thereâ€™s more out there than just their teacher saying â€˜Read this book,â€™â€ Yates said.
Mr. Yates has read the Harry Potter books to his class for the past three years.
â€œItâ€™s great literature, and itâ€™s great for kids because it apexes every chapter and you can read it every day, so that thereâ€™s always something happening,â€ he said.
This new organization is the CSU chapter of a national organization that pulls Harry Potter values straight from pages and into real life.
Origins of an HP movement
The Harry Potter Alliance is a non-profit organization that applies the values learned in the Harry Potter books to solving real-world problems. These problems include bullying, equality and illiteracy, among others.
Andrew Slack, the founder of HPA, was inspired by his friends, who were involved with online activism. This discovery, combined with his love for Harry Potter, was the start of the organization.
The first step was to announce his revelation to a larger audience of the Harry Potter fandom.
Enter Paul DeGeorge who, with his brother Joe, started the band Harry and the Potters in 2002 and since then have gained a large number of dedicated fans.
â€œ(Slack) was in Boston and showed up to a concert we were playing and pitched this idea,â€ DeGeorge said.
â€œThe idea was to create a social movement around Harry Potter, as a starting point to become more engaged and socially active,â€ he said.
Together, Slack and DeGeorge have created a community within the Harry Potter Fandom to raise awareness of current world problems and to find solutions. They used Harry and the Pottersâ€™ shows to promote the HPA.
â€œI felt very strongly the need to go deeper as a reader for my love of Harry Potter and realizing that other people wanted to go deeper for carrying on the feeling of magic,â€ Slack said. â€œThereâ€™s so much motivation from the books, and what do you do with it?â€
This question was answered by what is now a total of 120 global chapters of the HPA. A high school, university or other community started each chapter.
The Magic at CSU
One of these chapters is the Colorado Wizards of Justice, based at CSU.
In 2009, before coming to CSU Bentele started a Facebook group called â€œDumbledoreâ€™s Armyâ€ in high school to promote the community service he did.
In summer of 2010 Paul DeGeogre informed him about the HPA at a Harry and the Potters concert.
Bentele was then influenced to start the Colorado Wizards of Justice with friends freshman business major Zachary Southworth and undeclared freshman Nick Divine, once they all got to CSU.
â€œThe Harry Potter Alliance is about taking the values you learn in the books about equality, loyalty and justice and applying them to the community,â€ Bentele said.
Sophomore political science major Kayla Miller hopes to gain leadership through the volunteer opportunities she will be involved in with the CWJ.
â€œHarry Potter was very influential for me, and Iâ€™m really into social justice. The group is a really good incorporation of the two,â€ Miller said.
The CWJ was officially formed at the start of this semester and is actively participating in HPAâ€™s current campaign, the Deathly Hallows Campaign.
The Deathly Hallows Campaign, named after the final book in the Potter series, discovers real-world â€œhorcruxesâ€ and attempts to defeat them. A horcrux in the Harry Potter books is a piece of the soul of evil Lord Voldemort hidden in a significant object. If all the horcruxes are destroyed, Voldemort is destroyed as well.
The HPA has identified and fought four of the seven real-world horcruxes so far. These include low self-esteem because of false definitions of beauty, depression and anxiety, bullying against the GLBT community and working under inhumane conditions, specifically in the chocolate industry.
The HPA created a petition for Time Warner, the parent company of Warner Brothers, (which makes the Potter movies) to stop using chocolate made by companies who submit their workers to inhumane conditions, like starvation because of low wages, and those involved in child slavery. The goal is to make all Harry Potter-related chocolate Fair Trade.
The petition has gained at least 15,000 signatures so far, according to Paul DeGeorge.
â€œAs significant as the accomplishments are, this is a way to build long term change,â€ DeGeorge said. â€œThatâ€™s 15,000 people that have a moment in time to think about where that chocolate comes from.â€
The CWJ have made a jump start on the next horcrux, which is focused on fighting illiteracy by participating in Wednesdayâ€™s Read Across America.
They are also organizing a book drive for school libraries in the local Fort Collins area that will continue through March.
Staff writer Lianna Salva can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.