Driven to help others enjoy books
When two Oaks Christian School students last year became determined to turn their love of reading into a book drive to benefit less fortunate students, they were bowled over by the response.
They surpassed their original goal of bringing in 1,000 books within days. The new objective -- 10,000 books -- was exceeded as well.
Junior Trevor Hanken's parent's Westlake Village garage was overflowing with books.
"There were days when I actually filled up the back of my Jeep with books," Trevor said. His close friend and partner in the endeavor, fellow junior Jack DiCanio, said the outpouring was a surprise, even at a school that encourages community service.
"I was really taken aback. I thought we would get 50 books, but we got thousands," Jack said. "It was insane."
Over the summer, the pair had hatched a plan to start a new club at the nondenominational private prep school. They would collect unwanted books from students to donate to Access Books, a Los Angeles nonprofit that has distributed more than a million volumes to inner-city schools with poorly stocked libraries. When the Hankens moved four years ago from Pacific Palisades to Westlake Village to be closer to the school, they donated many volumes to Access Books. Trevor, an avid reader, kept the charity in mind. He couldn't comprehend growing up without books always within reach.
Access Books founder Rebecca Constantino has embraced the students' efforts on her organization's behalf. "It's really nice when kids can actually do it and take ownership of it," Constantino said. "It says a lot about the values they've grown up with, and how they value books."
When the nonprofit receives donations, many books are often junk, she said. But Trevor and Jack's books were of high quality. They've brought in about 11,500 -- and donations are still coming in.
The books will go to new charter schools in North Hollywood and downtown, as well as to a future family-reading library at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row. Books have already been delivered to Celerity Palmati Charter School in North Hollywood, which has an overwhelmingly Latino and low-income student body. Principal Titchamroeun Son said the school opened in fall with about 240 students, based in empty classrooms at Roy Romer Middle School. One room was meant to become a library, but the only volumes there were brought in by the 11 teachers, 10 of whom are in their first year of instruction.
"We don't have any books at all as far as reading books," said Son, himself a first-year principal. "We're extremely grateful. This opens up a lot of opportunities for our students, some of whom have never even been to a library."
In March, Trevor and Jack will go to the school to help catalog, label and shelve the books. They're planning a Laps for Literacy fundraiser beforehand to pay for shelving and the expense of cataloging.
While the two plan to apply to top colleges -- Trevor's thinking Northwestern University while Jack's looking at Notre Dame -- padding their resumes is not their motivation here.
"Yes, you have to do something," Trevor said. "It takes more than that to take it to the next level."
(read the article on the Daily News' web site here)
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