Business students improve literacy through book drive

Ten students from the Huntsman School of Business have teamed up with the Cache Valley Reading Council to promote literacy in the community and created a goal to collect more than 1,000 books in a 3-week period.

The Books for Hope drive will run until the last day of the month, with a door-to-door collection on March 26. On-campus drop sites include the business and education buildings, the TSC, the library entrance and the Edith Bowen Lab School. A majority of the books will be donated to the English Language Center of Cache Valley, a non-profit organization that offers a variety of English and basic life skills classes.

Katie Jensen, co-director of the center, said a book drive like this will effect hundreds of families in the community. Many of the families who use the center are new immigrants or refugees from war-torn countries, she said, and want the ability to support their families.

“They arrive with nothing, so we get books for them,” she said.

Jensen said the center serves around 1,000 people each year. With a combination of people from 90 countries, the center requires more than 250 volunteers annually. This year the English Center’s biggest needs are dictionaries and children’s books.

“They teach some who aren’t even literate in their own language,” said Tom Williams, a non-matriculated graduate student and member of Books for Hope project group. “Of course, some are very literate in their language and are learning English to help their job prospects.”

Books will also be donated to the Whittier Community Center and the Family Information and Resource Center.

According to its website, The Family Information and Resource center is an educational facility that provides workshops, classes, and activities for parents to learn to build confidence in their families. They have a small lending library where parents can take books out for two weeks at a time.

The Whittier Center is home to more than 25 civic organizations and is a great community resource, Williams said.

Melanie Hays, the staff facilitator of the project and member of the Cache Valley Reading Council, said although this is only a one-semester project for the students, its success may lead the council to use it as a platform for similar initiatives.

“It was a perfect storm,” Hays said. “We were looking for a group to help us because we couldn’t do anything with our small numbers and they were looking for a project for their class.”

The council consists of seven active members, many of whom already teach full-time. Hays said because of the council’s size, large-scale projects don’t have the manpower to succeed. The council mulled over many ideas before coming up with the thought of partnering with the university. She said the community and college partnership has been effective and the council will continue to pair with students on future projects.

Brad Rieben, a senior majoring in accounting and member of the Books for Hope project group, said pairing with the reading council has given the project legitimacy and has allowed the business students to connect with elementary schools in two school districts to coordinate drop-off locations.

“We wanted to do something that would have a greater impact in the community,” Rieben said. “We wanted to do something meaningful that would help a lot of people.”

Williams said while the group entertained several ideas for the class project, they felt that a book drive would ultimately be the most worthwhile to the immediate community. He said it also represents the generosity of the student body as whole.

“The fact USU students are involved reflects well on the university,” he said. “We can get a good response from students, and fill up the drop boxes on campus. It shows that students are community-minded.”

– alexandriaevens@gmail.com


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