The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

Reading Initiative starts its second year with unveiling of a “little free library” donated by retired English teacher Helen Rizzuto

Ms.+Laverde+and+Mr.+Sweeney+stand+with+the+Little+Free+Library%2C+called+Tophers+Corner%2C+donated+by+retired+English+teacher+Helen+Rizzuto.
Aiden Clarke
Ms. Laverde and Mr. Sweeney stand with the Little Free Library, called Topher’s Corner, donated by retired English teacher Helen Rizzuto.
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On September 21, the Reading Initiative officially began its second year.  According to its website, the goal of the Reading Initiative is to “continually be encouraging, promoting, and celebrating independent reading across our school community.” From offering students time to read in class to hosting a series of events, the year-long reading competition between grades strives to foster a genuine excitement for reading. To kick off this year’s events, the Reading Initiative unveiled a “little free library” in the THHS library that was created and donated by the family of former THHS English teacher Helen Rizzuto

At the event, Mrs. Rizzuto dedicated the library to Christopher Drake Lundell, an avid reader and used bookshop owner from her family who unexpectedly died earlier this year. Speaking of Mr. Lundell, Mrs. Rizzuto shared stories about his fondness for recommending (and sending) books to everyone in his life. Naming the little free library “Topher’s Corner,” Mrs. Rizzuto said that she believes Mr. Lundell’s spirit will live on as students donate and share books through this new library feature.

“Having your own personal library is really important and sharing those titles with people is important. The little library Mrs. Rizzuto donated in honor of [Mr. Lundell] is an opportunity for people to start building their own personal libraries and have access to books at home as well as share books that they love and are ready to let go,” said Librarian and Reading Initiative co-leader Arlene Laverde.  

During the dedication ceremony, English teacher and Reading Initiative co-leader Brian Sweeney said that early on in the planning process for the Reading Initiative last year he contacted Mrs. Rizzuto for help, and through her efforts, many of last year’s events were funded. 

“When Mr. Sweeney told me about this [the Reading Initiative] I thought, ‘this is perfect’ because without reading there is nothing,” Mrs. Rizzuto told The Classic.

Mrs. Rizzuto was able to help launch last year’s initiative through funding she had reserved from “The Ephebic Oath Project,” which she ran while a teacher at THHS. 

During her time at THHS, Mrs. Rizzuto worked with students on multiple charitable efforts. Through the Ephebic Oath project she worked with students to commemorate the firefighters of 9/11. Mrs. Rizzuto also advised Project Spirit to help those in need and lift the spirits of the school community. Project Spirit donated gifts to veterans in Virginia, made healing bracelets for patients suffering from chronic diseases, offered support to the loved ones of NASA astronauts who passed, and hand-delivered scarves and Dunkin’ Donuts gift certificates to the homeless. 

According to Mrs. Rizzuto, one of their most meaningful projects involved creating green bracelets to help the families impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Members of Project Spirit sold bracelets displaying the motto ‘We are holding your hand,’ to offer a helping hand to grieving families. With the purchase of each bracelet, a bracelet and uplifting message was sent to the people of Newtown.

In addition to donating Topher’s Corner, Mrs. Rizzuto and her family also created a Reading Initiative scholarship in memory of Mr. Lundell that is designed to support a senior who embodies the spirit of the Initiative. The scholarship is called The All Night Bookshop and Reading Society Scholarship in memory of Christopher Drake Lundell.

Mr. Sweeney (who advises The Classic) spoke about Mrs. Rizzuto’s charitable efforts and their friendship. “My first day here, I remember talking to her, and she was very kind and very welcoming. She has always looked out for me, always helped me. That started on my first day and has lasted through to today when she’s returned to help us build the Reading Initiative,” Mr. Sweeney said.

With the addition of Topher’s Corner to the library, Mr. Sweeney and Mrs. Laverde said they want to spend this year finding news ways to encourage students to read in every possible way. “Last year we hit over a million minutes [of reading logged], this year I want to exceed this by far,” Mrs. Laverde said. “I just want people to read more, and I want people to have more fun.”

“We should have time to read, and we should be able to come up with ways to find time to read,” Mr. Sweeney said. “We want to create something that is not this requirement but something we do because we enjoy doing it,” Mr. Sweeney said.

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Aiden Clarke
Aiden Clarke, Features Editor
Aiden is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. When he’s not on Face Time, hanging out with his friends, or stressing to finish that one assignment he forgot about before 11:59, he likes to read, write, and learn fun facts about random things.
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