For as long as she can remember, Capri Mills brought a book with her everywhere she went.
When she found out a school in Philadelphia didn’t have a library, she knew she had to do something about it.
“My whole life, I was reading,” Mills said. “I always wanted to do something with that and share it.”
The Shawnee High School junior has spent time during the pandemic collecting books for One Bright Ray Community Schools in Philadelphia. At first, she had 100 donations, then 1,000. Her goal was to gather 2,020 books in 2020, but by January, she was able to donate 5,000 titles to the schools.
“I made flyers and I posted all over social media, and then more and more people shared it and people just started donating,” Mills explained. “It’s really cool.”
Her social media campaign garnered attention from Whole Hog Cafe in Medford, which donated several boxes of books; Murphy’s Markets in Medford; and Trader Joe’s in Marlton, which gave Mills bags to organize the books.
Her donation has allowed One Bright Ray to create lending libraries at each of its four campuses across Philadelphia, said Arkadiy Yelman, principal of the adult learning program.
“Bringing literature into someone’s household and giving them the ability to have access to meaningful reading material is one of the most impactful things that can happen to somebody,” Yelman said.
The books will be available for students to take home, meaning they can share them with family members and friends.
“We’re talking about a population of people who, very often, find libraries very intimidating,” Yelman added. “So, it’s a tremendous gift, not just from Capri, but everybody who donated. A very generous, very kind thing to do.”
For Mills, learning that students were missing out on a library was heartbreaking.
“Education and reading are just so, so, so important,” she noted. “It’s really the foundation of everything. You can learn so much from books.”
Mills’ all-time favorite book? “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky.
“I feel like everyone should read,” the student said. “It doesn’t even matter what kind of book you’re reading, just as long as you’re reading.”
Giving back is second nature to Mills, who said helping the community is especially important right now.
“I think it’s important to spread positivity around as much as you can,” she added, “especially during times like this.”