Students lead project to provide books to low-income families

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By Tracy Harris

A group of Oldham County students gave younger students a special treat just in time for Easter weekend.

Members of the Oldham County Leadership Academy delivered books to more than 350 younger students as part of their capstone service project, “Reading is Magic.”

The OCLA is made up of 24 juniors, eight each from Oldham County, South Oldham and North Oldham high schools, and meets seven times throughout the school year to develop leadership skills.

The students had to brainstorm, choose and organize a service project — using skills learned in the academy program — to benefit the school district.

They created “Bippity Boppity Books,” a book drive for students who lack reading materials at home.

Students broke into groups to handle different aspects of the project, including asking businesses for monetary donations to purchase additional books.

Jackie Howell, the district’s secondary schools gifted and talented teacher and OCLA coordinator, said the students had to solve problems that arose and make adjustments.

As students carried in boxes of books to their April 5 meeting, it became clear the program was a huge success.

More than 3,500 books needed to be sorted and grouped by reading level and reader’s gender that afternoon.

Students then assembled a bag for each of the 350 anonymous students submitted to Howell by elementary school officials.

Officials from each elementary school submitted a list to Howell of the age and gender of students they thought would benefit from the books. Students later dropped the books off for distribution by school personnel. 

It is the second year for the OCLA program. Howell said juniors are selected for the program so they can give back to their school communities and make a greater impact than seniors might. 

Throughout the school year, students have learned ways to identify their own strengths and weaknesses as leaders — and how to apply that information to working with others.

Oldham County High School student Emily Daley said she even learned how to use people’s appearance to infer their personality and better communicate with them.

She believes the skill will help in the future with scholarship, college and job applications.

Even applying for the program was a challenge, said Hannah Grau, an Oldham County High School junior. 

Students also said they found the group’s diversity to be educational — by mixing all three high schools, they all met new people with different backgrounds and personalities.

Howell said the opportunity to develop leadership skills is vital to graduating well-rounded and well-prepared students.

Each high school designs its own application process for OCLA, Howell said, and student selection for next year’s program is nearly complete. An eighth-grade junior leadership academy will also start in the fall.