As an undergrad, I’ve been given two conflicting pieces of advice:
Take care of yourself first. Serve others before yourself.
I usually hear one or the other when I’m on the brink of a meltdown or feeling a lot of stress. A few months ago, I asked myself if these two pieces of advice were mutually exclusive or not. I want to take care of myself and my grades, but I also want to make a difference in the world.
Jumping Into Student Leadership
So, last year, I applied for and became one of National NSSLHA’s Student State Officers. I was determined to unite the three chapters in my state but knew I wouldn’t have the bandwidth to plan a huge in-person event. I thought a book drive would be a fun way to get everyone involved, we could combat childhood illiteracy, and I could still take care of myself. Win-win, right?
But as time went on, I knew I couldn’t do it all on my own. After all, I was applying for grad school, my grades were slipping, and … I needed help. So, I enlisted my friend and classmate, Levi, to help me plan the drive and keep things moving.
Together, we reached out to the NSSLHA chapters in our state. Everyone was excited to participate! The determination of each chapter president made this book drive a success. They were the driving force behind the event—spreading the word and motivated their friends to donate.
We also contacted our state association who approved the book drive and mentioned it to colleagues at their universities. We were lucky enough to have one NSSLHA chapter advisor on the state association board. Their university donated more than 600 books!
In the end, we achieved our goal of collecting 1,000 books for children in Utah! We split them up and sent them to three different organizations throughout Utah—the YMCA of Northern Utah, Rolling Meadows, and South Clearfield Elementary [Title 1] Schools.
Cory Harrison, assistant director of the YMCA of Northern Utah, told us,
“The YMCA is so thankful for the large donation of take-home books. Our afterschool programs serve students across (the) community, many of whom are from Title I schools and diverse backgrounds. Thanks to the generosity and hard work of RJ and Levi, NSSLHA chapters, and the Utah Speech and Hearing Association, our students were able to choose a brand-new book to keep and take home. Our YMCA family thanks all who helped take part in this wonderfully compassionate book drive.”
In reality, I couldn’t have done this book drive on my own. I had to have a plan (see my tips below). I had to ask for help. Maybe this is what they mean when they say, “take care of yourself” and “serve others before yourself.”
Eight Tips for Organizing a Book Drive
Anyone can organize a book drive and help fight illiteracy in their community. Here is how you can do it:
Before the Drive:
- Find friends to help out—the more the merrier! Work with your local NSSLHA chapter, other student organizations on campus, and/or your state association.
- Contact a local organization (or several!) that would benefit from receiving the donated books, to see if they’d be interested in participating.
- Set a date for the book drive. I recommend at least one week!
- Find easily accessible locations for people to drop off their books—libraries, churches, and your CSD department building are great!
During the Drive:
- Place some sort of container in your easily accessible locations for people to drop off their books. If it’s outside, make sure your containers are weather-proof!
- Publicize! Make a cool flier that you can post around campus. Use social media to spread the word.
- Check your locations frequently (at least daily) and store your collected books in one centralized location.
After the Drive:
- Go through all of the books that were collected and make sure they’re appropriate for your local organization’s audience. Don’t send adult books to a children’s hospital!