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Students add a mini free library to East Warrington Ave.


Last updated 1/2/2015 at 1:17pm

Brashear High School students placed a mini free-library in an old pay-phone enclosure outside of Paisano's Pizza on East Warrington Avenue in Allentown. The students, part of the "Be There" campaign, plan to erect 40 of the mini-libraries throughout the city.

Brashear High School students belonging to the "Be There" campaign donated a mini free-library in front of Paisano's Pizza in Allentown.

Fitting snugly inside an empty pay-phone box this is the first of 40 free libraries to be distributed throughout the city made by Brashear High School.

Across the nation, a growing trend of free lending library works on the honor system. People can borrow a book or take one and replace it with another book.

Debra Smallwood, a parent volunteer at Brashear High Schools, helped organize the students said, "Students want to be part of something successful and useful." Ms. Smallwood said she wants to engage students and encourage them to attend school by being part of projects like this.

"Be There" attendance ambassadors is a student-led group that partnered with the "Brashear Reads" program to create the library made from parts of recycled pallets.

Two years ago United Way of Allegheny County started the "Be There" campaign to increase student attendance has reached 18 school district, including Pittsburgh Public Schools, in the county's 43 school districts.

Last year, Kathryn Vargas, manager of Programs for Children and Youth Community Impact of United Way started working with Ms. Smallwood and staff at Brashear to help fund and support the program. Now the program is starting to have some impact.

Jordan Brown, a senior at Brashear, is an attendance ambassador. If students have a problem with attendance they can approach her for help.

Jordan said her attendance had improved because of the program's support.

"Knowing that someone cares about you as a whole person makes a big difference. It's not just about meeting a requirement or the law," said Jordan. She added her attendance has improved since the start of the program.

Ms. Smallwood, who's retired after 27 year in the Army, understands attendance can be a difficult problem for these students.

"Some kids have to get up at five in the morning to catch a bus downtown, get on the 'T', and then catch another bus just to get to school. They should be recognized for this effort." said Ms. Smallwood.

Mark Terapolis, owner of Paisano, currently hosts the free-library in front of his pizza shop. Having been in business he has seen the neighbor go through it's up and downs. Throughout he's supported the community. He held the opening of the library with free pizza and drinks for the student and spoke to the students about the importance of attendance.

"These are good kids," Mr. Terapolis said.

Submitted by

Robert Park


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