Students spread the joy of books on service trip

Claire Goldberg, Contributing Writer

A group of eighth grade students are participating in service learning project Project Cicero to fulfill their service learning requirement today and tomorrow. The students will take a bus to Hotel Pennsylvania in Midtown to have a hands-on learning experience while helping New York City public schools, a trip facilitated by Middle Division (MD) Service Learning Coordinator Caitlin Hickerson.

Project Cicero redistributes donated books to public school classrooms. The organization receives book donations from schools all across New York, including the school.

Project Cicero’s main goal is to donate books to the libraries and classrooms of under-resourced schools. Project Cicero has books for children from pre-K through age 18, of all different genres. They accomplish this goal by receiving thousands of gently used books that have been donated by various schools. Pre-registered teachers from different NYC public schools sign up for one hour shifts and gather as many books as they can and take them back to their school, Hickerson said.

When the students arrive, they will encounter thousands of books in boxes, and their job is to organize the books into categories, Hickerson said.

“The students will get rid of the books that are not usable,” she said. “That means books that have been written in, have broken pages, or are just destroyed.” In addition to helping sort the books at the hotel, the school has also been donating books for over eight years. According to Middle and Upper Division Chair of the Library Department Caroline Bartels, every year the school receives a list of needed books from the organization. “This year we saved around thirty cartons of books just left over from the book sale alone,” Bartels said. “We always have books that don’t get sold, so our goal is to get them out into the hands of children that need them,” Bartels said.

According to Hickerson, in addition, this year the MD has been executing a book drive, in order to make a connection for the students between giving and doing.

Project Cicero is a special service-learning trip because it is a trip that focuses on underserved educational institutions, Hickerson said. “While the other organizations are more community organizations, this is a more direct way to get resources into the public school classes.”

“I chose this trip because I thought it would be fun to help teachers find books for their classrooms,” Athena Spencer (8) said. “I am looking forward to suggesting books that I love. I think it will really help young students learn to love reading.”

“I am looking forward to helping sort books with my friends,” s Bailey Hecht (6) said. She thinks that it is important to be good at reading because it helps you learn more and teach others, she said.

Parker Wischhover (8) wanted to go because she loves the satisfaction of helping others, she said. Wischhover is also looking forward to spending time with her friends.

Hickerson is excited for this trip because it is an opportunity for our students who attend a well-resourced school to see that not every institution is as well resourced, she said.

“There’s also a lot of teamwork in service that the students will practice,” Hickerson said. “It’s also just an amazing opportunity for the students to look at books and discover what’s out there to read,” she said.