Stafford Intermediate School Future Leaders Organize Book Drive to Benefit Bridge of Books

Feb 22, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy

It’s no secret the students of Stafford Intermediate School enjoy giving back to their community, be it within Stafford Township or Southern Ocean County or even somewhere else within New Jersey. And this year, it’s been no different.

Starting in November, the Future Leaders Club began a campaign and challenged the school’s students to bring in as many books as possible. Now, a whole stockpile of books are in boxes, sitting in a corner of the stage inside the intermediate school’s cafeteria, awaiting their next destination.

“Many of our students had books they didn’t use,” said sixth-grader Nick Mancini, who helped the 14-student group sort through some 4,000 books over a six-week period. “Sitting on their shelves, collecting dust, were all these books that can go to better use. So we told them to bring them in.”

Within the next week or two, those books will be delivered to the Bridge of Books Foundation, a nonprofit based in Monmouth County. Its mission is to “provide an ongoing source of books to underserved children throughout New Jersey in order to support the development of literacy skills and encourage a love of reading.”

“Reading’s really important to your whole life,” said sixth-grader Joelle Castaldo, who along with Mancini spent many lunch periods as well as after-school hours transporting books from collection boxes to the room in which the books were sorted. “If you can’t read, you’re limited in what you can do. It’s hard to get through life if you don’t know how to read.”

Starting in November, the Future Leaders group hung up posters around the school, circulated flyers among students, set up collection boxes and delivered public address announcements to generate interest in the book drive and encourage others to bring in their unused books. For six weeks, the group collected the books and for another six weeks upon returning to school from the Christmas break sorted and boxed up the books.

“We definitely exceeded what I thought it would be,” Staub said. “From the organization and setup of all the posters and flyers, to the collection and the sorting, the Future Leaders students really did a phenomenal job. To get all this done was a huge accomplishment, and it’s just a testament to how much they’re willing to give selflessly for the benefit of others.”

Of course, the small group of student leaders also benefited – particularly Connor Reese, who often enjoyed reading most of the books he sorted through.

“I had to read them,” he claimed, amusingly. “I wanted to make sure I got them in the right box, so I read them to know who would get them.”

But beyond their own love of reading, Staub said her crew learned a lot more about teamwork, organization, communicating and leadership. The rest of the Future Leaders group includes Gabriel Danziger, Emily Caporrino, John Rendzias, Kayla Statlend, Ashley Easterling, Lynsey Rinnier, Brandon Hensinger, David Wyrsch, Kiley Cassidy, Cody Karolkiewicz and Robert Cassidy.

“Joelle, Nick and Connor were an enormous help. They put in a lot of time during their lunch periods and after school,” she said. “And the truth of it is, they don’t really want the fame for what they’re doing. None of the students in our group want to be put in the spotlight for doing something so good. But I want them to have it. They deserve it.

“These are students who are going to make a difference in the world. And they’ve already done that in a lot of ways.”

Bridge of Books receives donations of books and delivers them to children across the state through various methods – directly providing books to specific agencies, such as childcare centers, youth organizations, family centers and adoptive service groups, offering books to students in many inner city neighborhoods, working with the New Jersey Youth Corps to distribute books through its sites, and through community outreach events.

— David Biggy

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