by Kathrin Walter
I was very compelled by the idea of promoting literacy since I have always loved reading since a young age and I have learned so much from books, newspapers, and magazines, so I know the impact that literacy can have on one’s life.
The Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project has seen volunteer efforts come from many sources. Every effort is valued and appreciated, but it is always inspiring to see a single person who takes charge and initiative to help and inspire others. Surya Prabhakar is a young man from Middlesex, a small county of roughly 3,000 in New Jersey, who earned his Boy Scout Eagle Rank for his volunteer efforts for the Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project. Setting out to collect 300 magazines to be donated, Surya was able to collect over 1,200 which created 40 bundles and also initiated the first supermarket magazine drive for the Literacy Project. He pioneered a new way to sort and package magazine literacy bundles that can be posted in an online marketplace for selection by literacy programs. The magazines are in good or very good shape and are enormously valuable for literacy. The magazine bundles are delivered at no cost to the literacy agencies for new readers – at-risk children and families in homeless and domestic violence shelters, and mentoring and job training programs.
Surya started out as a Cub Scout in the first grade, and has remained an active part of the Boy Scouts now as a high school student with plans for college in the near future. He first heard about the Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project through random searching on the web for possible volunteer opportunities. He says what stuck out to him was the Literacy Project’s emphasis on helping out low-income families, and their various successes towards this particular cause. Surya credits his own love of reading and recognizing its significance as another reason why this volunteer effort was so appealing to him.
Surya set out investing his time and efforts into getting involved with volunteering for the Literacy Project by figuring out a plausible way to start collecting bundles of magazines to be collected and delivered. His original goal was to collect 300 magazines with the help of his friends and many of his fellow troop members. Surya soon found the response to his request for assistance to be overwhelming. He received magazines from friends, family, local businesses, and with the help of his volunteer team, was able to collect far more magazines than he originally had set as his goal. Surya also organized a magazine drive at one of the local grocery stores in his town, which proved to be successful, as well. The success of Surya’s efforts has been an inspiration for the all those involved with the Literacy Project Team, leading the way for other volunteers to realize their potential and challenge themselves to go beyond what they think is possible.
Surya has been involved in other volunteer efforts as well, working at his town’s local nursing home and food pantry. He credits persistence and knowing your hard work will pay off to help someone else as his motivation for continuing to volunteer, even if the task at hand is large-scale or difficult. When asked about his advice to those who want to get involved with volunteering, yet are not necessarily sure where or how to begin, Surya’s response was encouraging.
“Although it took a good amount of effort and dedication to complete such a project, all of the hard work paid off after seeing that the magazines that my team and I collected would directly help people in need throughout the nation. Stay connected! People with experience can offer invaluable advice, just as Mr. Mennell guided me through my project and gave me many tips and pointers along the way.”
Surya has been an inspiration for the Literacy Project, in part because his volunteer efforts have far surpassed what he initially set out to do, and also because it shows others that no matter your age or your experience level, you can still have an enormous impact on a cause if you’re willing to put forth the effort and utilize your resources. He remains a vital part of the Magazine Publishers Family Literacy Project, holding the role of Volunteer Coordinator and helping beginners get started and educating them on how to get started and of the goals of the team.