SRU students collect, ship schoolbooks to Jamaica


Trocci and Lease sorting through children's books

(From left) Jaime Lease and Alyssa Trocci, Slippery Rock University early childhood and special education majors from New Castle and Upper Saint Claire, organize books they collected for children in Jamaica.

April 12, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - When Alyssa Trocci and Jaime Lease, Slippery Rock University early childhood and special education majors from New Castle and Upper Saint Claire, participated in a teaching CAREBreak in Petersfield, Jamaica, their concern for the children they tutored did not diminish when their plane landed back home.

The two students, struck by the limited number of books at Cook's View Elementary School, took action. They organized a campus book drive and have collected more than 2,200 books for the Jamaican children. The books have been sorted and are being prepared for shipment to the island.

"We did not do this book drive for any reason other than giving back to the individuals who graciously opened up their homes and hearts to two complete strangers," Trocci said.

SRU CAREbreaks are community service experiences offered in the fall, winter and spring that give students the opportunity to travel to places in the need in the U.S. and internationally. Since 1994, SRU students have spend more than 200,000 hours in 26 U.S. cities and seven foreign countries tutoring children, building houses and helping the hungry.

"Alyssa and Jaime's project represents the real essence of 'transformational experiences' for SRU students when they travel internationally and develop an understanding of another culture," said Christine Walsh, associate professor of elementary education.

After the January CAREBreak, the students stopped by Walsh's office and shared stories about their experiences in Jamaica and desire to help the children.

"They explained their desire to take action by organizing a book drive," Walsh said. "After a quick brainstorming session, they immediately crafted letters and contacted stakeholders on campus, as well as the elementary schools they attended as children. The response was overwhelming. The generosity of students and faculty on campus and members of their respective school districts contributed to the success of the project."

Trocci said the week in Jamaica, was amazing and life changing. They tutored first and second graders.

"From the beginning of our journey to the end, the genuine and loving people of Jamaica never made us feel like strangers," Trocci said. "We were always thought of as family, forever having a place to call home in Jamaica."

During their time with the children, they noticed that classes had very few books.

"As future educators we know how much of an impact books can have on children's development," Trocci said. "Growing up, we can remember how fun it was to dive into a new book. So, as a way to express our love of reading, we wanted to give children outside of our culture the chance to do so too."

Lease said they started to collect books from multiple campus organizations and by setting up big red boxes with stars on them around campus as drop zones.

"We are currently in the process of contacting airlines and our connections in Jamaica (to ship the books.) We are hoping to have the books in their hands by the end of May," she said.

Trocci and Lease said they were impressed by the response.

"As we were collecting the books, we were blown away with the amount of generosity from the Slippery Rock Community and our home communities," Lease said. "We know for a fact that we could not have done it without their help and the aid of Dr. Walsh and her positive guidance throughout this journey."

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