When I began 6th grade at Liberty Middle School I started working towards my Silver Award in Girl Scouts. I knew that there were many underperforming schools in Hillsborough County and I wanted to make a long lasting impact in my community and help children. When I was in 3rd grade, I was diagnosed with a reading disability, so literacy was at the top of ways I could give back, and I began promoting literacy and getting books into the hands of children who did not have them.
Did you know: students who don't read skillfully by 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school?; the inability to read is linked to poor outcomes as a teen and adult, such as dropping out of school, misbehavior and unemployment?; nearly 85% of the youths who face trial in the court system are functionally illiterate; and, the more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher the student’s reading level?
When I researched these statistics, I teamed up with Parents and Children Advance Together (PCAT) family literacy center in June 2017. PCAT provides free programs to underserved children to help them learn to read. I was eager to help, so I collected 175 books just from word of mouth and was asked to speak at the Children’s School Board meeting.
I was encouraged to continue collecting books and focused on improving my community, and came up with a motto: “When you can read you can learn anything!” For service hours I tutored children, visited Kindergarten classes to read and to discuss the importance of reading, attended community events to spread the importance of literacy, and, collected books to donate to at-risk children in elementary schools. I believe books need to be in the hands of elementary level students when they are eager to learn. I also arranged a book donation box to be placed at the YMCA. In just two months, 1600 books were collected.
After storing them in my garage, sorting and organizing them, 1500 elementary level books were donated to Foster Elementary as 98% of the students receive free/reduced lunch and the reading testing scores were below average. I continued to collect books and people in my community heard of my efforts and wanted to help. After five more months, I was able to donate another 1700 books to Edison Elementary, another underperforming school. At both schools, I was greeted by Hillsborough County School Board members who were interested in my literacy campaign. By May 2018 I had also earned the Girl Scout Silver Award for my promotion of literacy.
When starting my 8th grade year at Liberty Middle School, my history teacher encouraged me to continue my service to the community, and I accepted the challenge and encouraged other Liberty students to get involved. From the previous success of my efforts, community support and need in Hillsborough County, I continued to build upon my program over this school year. I again spread the word about my literacy campaign and had collection boxes at the YMCA and I did a collection box at my middle school. This time, I encouraged donations for middle school level books and I collected another 2900 books. After sorting, 50 books went to the Salvation Army and 70 books to my middle school library and ELA classrooms. The rest of the 2800 books were donated to another underperforming school: Witter Elementary on March 1, 2019.
In total, I have donated over 6000 books to Title 1 Elementary schools in Hillsborough County. My will to improve literacy in my community and my motto “When you can read you can learn anything!” has spread from a small word of mouth project to a massive effort of service to benefit students in need.