On the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, Wilton High School students traveled to hard-hit Rockaway, NY to deliver books they’d collected as part of a drive for Rockaway Scholars’ Academy, a school that had been flooded by the hurricane. Calling it, Project Rock Away the Storm with Books, the sophomore members of Class Project 2016 collected new books and monetary donations from the Wilton community to replenish the hundreds of books lost by the New York school. 

When Superstorm Sandy flooded its first floor, the school lost nearly all of its classroom libraries and a book storage room, amounting to hundreds of volumes destroyed that hadn’t yet been able to replace. As the Wilton students noted, many of the Scholars’ Academy students and employees still have not been able to repair or rebuild their own houses after the hurricane’s destruction, either.

Yesterday, several Wilton students, their parents and school officials traveled to Rockaway to personally deliver all the books that had been collected. The school held a ceremony during which the books were presented by Wilton students to Rockaway kids.

According to a Project 2016 press release, the books were “a kind of reward for staying so strong and resilient in the face of such prolonged consequences of disaster. These students, teachers, and the whole community truly deserve the joy of reading good books, especially after what adversity they have persevered through and still must face as reconstruction continues.”

“We are looking forward to having the Wilton students in our school as we commemorate the one-year anniversary,” said Scholars’ Academy teacher Dannielle Colleran.  “In a time it seems so much of what we hear is negative, what a wonderful thing to see students come together to help out other students.”

Members of Class Project 2016 felt strongly about the importance of replenishing the school’s libraries with needed titles, and with new books rather than used leftovers, as previous attempts to restock these libraries had produced.  “We wanted to make sure their classroom libraries looked at least as good as ours,” said Amanda Craven, a sophomore involved in the project, “so we asked for a list of specific titles to make sure 100% of our efforts would give the teachers exactly what they needed for their students.”

Some examples of titles on the list include classics such as Fahrenheit 451, Pride and Prejudice, and Of Mice and Men, as well as more contemporary titles such as Chew on This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food and Newspapers Articles to Get Teenagers Talking, and historical books, such as 10,000 Days of Thunder: A History of the Vietnam War and Fever 1793. The quantities requested of each title varied from three to 270.

Since August the group involved with the Class Project has been working towards raising funds and awareness, and, this past Saturday, Oct. 26, they held an open book-donation day at WHS, raising more than $900 in the last push. In total, the students collected 2,000 books valued at nearly $18,000. Private donations from individuals and companies, such as Wilton Pizza and affiliated restaurants, were augmented by funds from bake sales and book donations.

The Wilton High School sophomores were first acquainted with the Scholars’ Academy’s need through two of Wilton’s own ABC (A Better Chance) scholars who had previously attended the school.  “We became acquainted with many families from Rockaway after being a host family for one of their students,” said Adrienne Ready, an ABC board member.  “Many of us reached out and helped families relocate in the immediate aftermath.”  Nearly a year later there are still students who have not been able to return because their homes still have not been repaired.

Members of Class Project 2016 are high school sophomores and their parents who pursue community service projects in order to give back to people in need, foster a tradition of civic service, and develop a strong sense of community within our area. Class Project 2016 is sponsored by the Wilton Youth Council, a nonprofit, all-volunteer community organization that strives to foster positive social and emotional development of the town’s youth, sponsoring programs in the public schools and events in the community at large.

For more information about Project Rock Away the Storm with Books visit their website or email them at rockawaybookdrive@gmail.com. For more information about the Scholars’ Academy, visit the school’s website.