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Honors students collect 600 books for DPS

December 9, 2014

Service is one of the four components of the Honors College experience, with opportunities to give students a hands-on approach in the schools, neighborhoods, and communities surrounding Wayne State’s campus.

Junior Yasmine Elghoul’s act of service benefited 250 elementary students throughout Detroit Public Schools. She, along with four others in HON 4930: Detroit Fellows Tutoring Project, spent the month of November organizing and collecting books for Detroit Public School kindergarten through third grade students who struggle to read.

Their goal:300 books. At the end of the two-week drive, the group collected more than 600, which allowed each student to keep two books.

 Dale Thomas, one of the co-instructors for HON 4930, said that literacy is a huge problem in Detroit. “Getting books into these homes will hopefully encourage each of the students who received the books. The books will help the students remember their tutors and all the reading skills the tutors worked on with them.”

The project was completely student led according to Thomas, with Elghoul taking the lead role. Elghoul, along with Sophomores Nicole Beller, Anthony Bertucci, Amanda Najor, and Freshman Devinne Bradford, began planning the book drive in October. It ran November 12-25.

According to Elghoul, she came up with the idea after learning some students she tutored did not have any books at home to read. “I think consistency is important when learning any subject, so I saw it as a drawback that the students didn’t have materials at home to practice reading with,” she said.

She learned this was a common problem among many of the students whom her classmates tutored, so she approached Thomas with her idea. Upon getting approval, the group set up donation boxes at various locations around campus, and the books came pouring in.

“When we initially eyeballed the boxes of books we had, we were afraid we hadn’t collected enough books,” Elghoul said. “However, we counted the books before Thanksgiving break and found that we had surpassed our goal. We were relieved and excited at the same time.”

Bradford said the tutoring experience has been “amazing.”

“Giving up sometime to help these students is a small price to pay for our future generations,” she added.

Beller said she felt like she instilled a sense of confidence in each student’s reading ability. “Many of the students were afraid to read out loud with me in the beginning, but by the end they were so enthusiastic about reading that they would ask to read to me the materials which I had previously read to them,” she added.

 Najor said it was an emotional, yet rewarding, experience. “The students were very eager and loved the one-on-one attention,” she added. “It took a while to break through their shyness, but I was able to build trust and a strong friendship with the kids.”

  In addition to asking the Wayne State community for help, Bertucci also reached out to his old youth group at St. Sebastian Catholic Church in Dearborn Heights. He indicated the group was able to donate hundreds of books, including 24 mint-condition books.

Elghoul also wanted to say a special thank you to the Detroit Public Library which generously donated many books from their own library book drive.

Even though the drive has concluded, books can still be donated to the Detroit Fellows Tutoring Project by dropping them off at the front desk of the Irvin D. Reid Honors College, which is located on the second floor of the Undergraduate Library.