Along with the skills they’re acquiring for potential careers, students in the Effingham College and Career Academy’s logistics program are gaining something even more valuable.
The high school students are getting hands-on experience in helping others.
As part of ECCA’s partnership with the non-profit organization First Book, the logistics students donate books to children. Their latest effort was to read and give books to the pre-kindergarten students at South Effingham High School.
“A big part of our project with First Book is community service,” said logistics program director Ashley Kieffer. “That’s something that a lot of students just aren’t involved in this day and time.”
The pre-kindergarteners gathered around to listen to ninth-grader Krishna Basdeo read the book “Fair Cow.” The logistics students then handed out books to every young boy and girl, for them to take home.
“It makes you feel real special,” said freshman Austin Thompson. “You sort of make their day. The books help you give back.”
First Book distributes books throughout the U.S. to children in low-income families. The Effingham College and Career Academy provides First Book with warehouse space and a workforce of logistics students, and in exchange the Effingham County School System keeps 5 percent of the books the students store and process.
ECCA received its initial shipment from First Book this past spring, which included more than 1,400 books to remain in Effingham County for elementary schoolchildren. Other book distributions have included nearly 1,100 books to Live Oak Public Libraries’ Effingham branches for their summer reading programs, and 700 books in conjunction with Manna House’s donations of Thanksgiving meals to families in need.
“Anywhere that we can get books into the hands of those who are less likely to have books in their possession at home, that’s who we really try to target,” Kieffer said.
Kieffer wanted not only to donate books to children, but to have his students become more involved in “hands-on giving” by reading to the youngsters and personally handing them the books. The visit to SEHS was the first of several Kieffer plans for his students to make in the community.
“It was very fun (to see the children’s reactions),” Thompson said. “They have a good time. We’ve done a few book drives, and I’ve seen some children’s faces really light up.”
The students work in the warehouse two days a week, earning valuable hands-on lessons in all facets of logistics. That enabled them to put a personal touch on their book donation to the pre-K students at SEHS.
“We went to the warehouse (the day before) and we picked out certain books that we were going to give them because we knew they were books they would be interested in,” said freshman Ariana Holloway.
The book distributions in Effingham County are aimed primarily at schools that receive Title I funding, Kieffer said. Those schools have the highest percentages of students receiving free and reduced lunch.
“We do give books, though, to students who don’t necessarily meet that criteria,” Kieffer said, “because we would never come into a classroom like this and give 10 students a book and not give every student a book.”