First Book: My Full Circle Experience

Today’s guest blog post is brought to you by Betty Tam. Betty has served as an intern for First Book over this summer. She is a Senior at the University of Connecticut and share our passion for childhood literacy issues.

Last Wednesday I ventured with First Book’s Senior Director of National Engagement, Mitali Chakraborty to meet Lynsey Jeffries, the Executive Director of the Higher Achievement Program (HAP), which serves children in need throughout DC. As we entered the HAP office I began to reminisce about the amazing time that I had spent with HAP.    
My first encounter with HAP occurred in the summer of 2000. My mother had enrolled my sister and me into the program hoping that we would be able to continue learning throughout the summer. With the help of HAP, my sister and I had access to more resources that supported our academic enrichment. Today, I am not only an intern at First Book, but also a senior at the University of Connecticut majoring in business. My sister is a junior studying Chemistry at Wellesley College.

To this day, HAP still offers after school and summer programs in multiple wards in DC for children from the fifth to eighth grade. The program is open for 650 hours year round to help their students excel. Many students significantly increase their grade point averages and 93% of HAP’s students go on to attend college.

When I heard about the opportunity to meet up with leaders at HAP to share information about First Book, I was thrilled! My internship at First Book has made me realize how many children have limited access to books. Although I had been fortunate enough to live close to a library, some kids are not fortunate enough to have access to books.

HAP and First Book share a goal which is to help close the education gap between children across the United States. Lynsey’s hope for the Higher Achievement program is to build libraries at each center with an abundance of brand new books. She hopes to be able to allow the students to take the books home at the end of the program. I believe that First Book is a great opportunity for HAP because they will be able to provide access to more books at a lower cost.


After the meeting, I realized that HAP had grown so much over the years! When I graduated from HAP in 2005 they only had a few centers in Washington, DC. Today they have branched out across the East Coast with centers in Maryland, Virginia, and even Pennsylvania. I believe that the partnership between HAP and First Book will help more children from low-income communities reach their dreams with higher education and academic enrichment.