A publicist for The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards contacted me about profiling two young women who were named among their states’ top youth volunteers of 2013 for helping others experience the many benefits of books. Since I am all in favor of kids helping kids to gain access to books, I thought that I would share their stories:
"Alison Forger, 16, of Monroe, Conn., a junior at Masuk High School, promotes the love of reading and writing in young students through a club she organized that sends high school students to elementary school classrooms to assist with reading activities. When Alison was in eighth grade, her English teacher challenged her to use her love of reading and writing to benefit the community. Alison created “Reading and Writing Rock,” a student mentoring club that she has run for the past four years. “I wanted all of those students to be able to pick up a book or write a story and feel the same sort of happiness and satisfaction that I do,” said Alison.
To start her club, Alison, with the help of her English teacher, recruited six fellow students and contacted local elementary school officials, who agreed to let the students visit their school once a week during English classes. The older students read to the children, helped them write stories, taught them about authors and even organized plays based on their favorite books. Over the years, the club has grown to include 35 high school mentors in all three of the district’s elementary schools. In 2010, Alison won an essay contest sponsored by NBC Connecticut’s Education Nation and was awarded $5,000. After soliciting input from elementary teachers involved in her program, she used the money to purchase more than 500 books for the schools. Last summer, she also worked with a local bookstore owner to hand-pick 100 books to stuff in backpacks for children in need. “I always tell other high school students how much fun it is to see the kids light up when you walk through the door,” said Alison.
Emily Morgan, 17, of Moscow, Pa., a senior at North Pocono High School, has raised $24,000 in donations and distributed 1,700 new books, bookcases, art and school supplies, games and puzzles through the organization she founded called “Eat a Book.” Emily, who started the project in 2011 to inspire children to “devour” good books, developed curriculum for two summer camps, publishes a children’s magazine and has built six literacy centers at shelters and other facilities for at-risk children.
National Volunteer Week is April 21st-27th.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program is the United States’ largest youth recognition program based exclusively on volunteer community service. Since 1995, more than 345,000 young Americans have participated in the program. Each year, the program’s judges select 102 State Honorees to receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. where, on May 6th, 10 of them will be named National Honorees. You can watch the live webcast of the May 6th event here: http://bit.ly/YN1OLU."
Two pretty impressive teens helping connect other kids with books. We should be celebrating young women like this, and programs like these, year-round. There are, of course, tons of other kids doing great things all around the country, too. If you are in need of inspiration, you can browse by state here.