How One College Student is Making an Impact in Her Community


When Janessa Blythe discovered through a college leadership course that kids in her Waco, Texas community didn’t have access to books, she decided to act.

The junior at Baylor University is launching Waco Up & Read, a program that provides books for kids from low-income communities. “It appalled me that kids didn’t have access to stories and didn’t have access to books in general,” says Janessa, “that sent me on a little bit of a journey — what can I do about this?”

Janessa’s book drive provided each kid at Restoration Haven, a Waco community support organization, with eight books to call their own. For many, those books make up their entire home libraries. Working with Restoration Haven, Janessa is planning to provide more books through a pilot program, and establish Waco Up & Read as a nonprofit.

Her plans are ambitious, but Janessa understands the kind of impact that books can have.

janessa-blythe-2Stories teach kids that when hard times come, or you hit a brick wall in life, that you can break through – that is a major matter you see in good stories.

And exposing kids to good stories is important to Waco Up & Read. Janessa plans to use the First Book Marketplace to give kids access to rich and varied content.

“Obviously that includes classic children’s books, but in general I’m looking for books that teach virtue, teach empathy, that teach human issues.”

To do that though, Janessa will need to raise money for Waco Up & Read. One way she is doing that is through First Book campaigns, which makes the fundraising process simple and easy.

All across the country kids in need lack access to books and stories, but the kids in Waco communities have a champion in Janessa. Book drives, fundraising, and eventually a nonprofit organization – that can seem like a lot for a college student but it’s as simple as identifying a need, and meeting it.

And that is something we are all capable of.


If you serve kids in need, please visit the First Book Marketplace to explore our variety of educational resources. To raise money and make an impact in your community, start a First Book campaign to provide books to kids in need.