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This California Teen’s Program Helps Thousands Learn to Read

Image by Courtesy Laurielle Schwab

This piece is part of a series of perspectives from Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award Recipients on their experiences in philanthropic work.

The basis on and direction in which a country grows is highly dependent on youth. The youth are the ones who are developing alongside a generation; growing and learning more about themselves and the world every day. More than just having a say in the latest trends and fads, the youth have a burning desire to discover, and a craving to create a lasting impact. That constant yearning for change is something the Helen Diller Family Foundation not only recognizes, but fuels.

Acknowledgment from the 2016 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards of Rim High Literature Club, gives me a feeling of unadulterated happiness. Starting any type of large scale project or organization as a teenager is far from easy, which is why it is so incredible to have not one person, but an entire organization supporting my goal.

Image by Courtesy Laurielle Schwab

I believe access for the youth to a well rounded education is intrinsic to ensuring prosperity for future generations in this country. So far, I have already had the privilege to work with over 1,000 students, and that number is growing exponentially. One day, I want to see my program reach elementary and high schools on a national level.

With the award, I will be able to accomplish my post-high school dream of becoming a Sun Devil at Arizona State University in the Barrett Honors College as an Art Major in Painting and Drawing. While exposing myself to higher education, I will simultaneously dip my toe into philanthropy by donating part of the Award money to my project, the Rim High Literature Club, and the first elementary school my Literature club worked with, Valley of Enchantment Elementary.

To any people out there who have wanted to make change but don’t know how to do it, you can start by thinking about what the phrase tikkun olam means to you. To me, healing the world starts with one and in turn affects many.

More about Laurielle:

When funding cuts caused the collapse of the reading program at the elementary school she had attended, Laurielle set out to provide students with the same access to the reading resources and opportunities she had at their age. In October 2014, Laurielle founded Rim High Literature Club, an organization that pairs teenagers with children in primary school grades to foster reading comprehension and appreciation skills. Teen mentors work with students to build vocabulary, analyze literature, and explore poetry. Laurielle’s organization has thus far enriched the lives of more than 1,000 elementary school students, while engaging 50+ teen volunteers. Teachers report that the program has dramatically increased student engagement in reading and writing. Through fundraising and donations of 300 gently-used children’s books, the organization is now expanding to help more schools, with Laurielle’s ultimate goal being to see every elementary school in the nation partnered with a high school tutoring program.

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