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Keeping it REAL
Posted 02/24/2020 03:46PM

LUNAIn an age when a 260-character post can pass for a soliloquy, the St. John’s Prep L.U.N.A. club leaned into book drive this month that opened new doors for hundreds of preschool and young-adult readers in Lynn. Latinos Unidos en Acción (L.U.N.A.) spreads multicultural awareness throughout campus by building bonds, forging friendships, and helping those in need in surrounding communities.

For Nicholas Lopez ’20, the book drive underscored two truths. First, that the essence of humility is about a desire to serve and, secondly, that reading is, indeed, fundamental.

“As a club, we feel it’s important to get in the fight for literacy because we believe it’s a key skill to break the cycle of poverty and misfortune in underserved communities,” he says. “Through our efforts to spark youth interest in reading, we can begin to make the change that is so necessary in our world. Literacy has the capacity to empower, teach, and inspire future generations.”

The beneficiary of the drive was The REAL Program in Lynn—short for Reading Educational Assistance Learning—a non-profit which works to address literacy issues by providing books, homework assistance, healthy snacks and dinners, enrichment opportunities, college campus visits, and recreation in a safe, caring environment. REAL also offers English-language tutoring for ESL parents.

Under the stewardship of club moderator and Spanish teacher Sofia Sidmore, and with the help of Middle School social studies teacher Lois Hammond and Laura Bell, the Prep’s assistant director of advancement services, grants & stewardship, the 10-day book-collection window resulted in the donation of 1,160 books.

“The club is always looking for ways to participate in community-building projects that support people of diverse backgrounds,” says Sidmore. “Our collaboration with REAL not only reinforces the mission and multicultural awareness at St. John’s Prep, but also builds connections with families that might not be familiar with our school. The benefit for current students is another dimension of servant-leadership and volunteer opportunities.”

A member of St. John’s Class of 2015 and now an admission counselor at the Prep, Eric Encarnación recalls vividly how the book drive drove home for him the critical importance of learning to read and write coherently, in addition to the world of imagination that literacy unlocks for young readers.

“Exposure to literature from a young age is a catalyst for exploration and creativity,” says Encarnación, who served as L.U.N.A. president while at the Prep and graduated from Boston College last year. “From Shakespeare and Twain to Allende and Angelou, reading connects us to generations of people who have shaped the way we see the world. Every child deserves access to books. Literacy is transformative and it’s an important investment in the future.”

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