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This week started off with a kick as the processing center was filled with many eager Golden Apple Scholars. These incoming college freshmen, although diverse, are all connected through their shared goal to apply their passions towards becoming the next generation of educators.

The Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program is a culmination of Illinois students with both a strong inclination for academics and a desire to pursue teaching careers at high-need Illinois institutions. This program provides well-deserved tuition assistance upon agreeing to teach full-time for five years or more at an Illinois School of Need.

There was a refreshing, contagious energy in the processing center having a community of fellow book lovers donating their time and talent to level books into proper age groupings. Golden Apple Scholar, Simone Barton, will attend DePaul University this fall with the hope to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for science, math, and the social sciences with middle schoolers. Barton believes, “Books are different worlds. They wield character development.” She expressed how books allow children to learn about themselves through collecting life lessons outside the classroom.

It was a privilege to pick the brains of these intellectuals on how they chose the teaching path and why they believe books are essential to children’s livelihood. West Leyden High School Graduate, Chris Perez, thanks his many great past teachers for inspiring him to help students find their voice and perspective on the world. Perez believes the fictional role models children discover in books are invaluable during transitional ages to let kids know they are not going through the twists and turns of life alone.

Books provide the Chicagoland children we serve with countless benefits. Illinois State University first-year, Madelyn Morrow, touched on the immersive escape books lend children. Future math educator, Ethan Hunt, trusts that “there is a strong correlation between strong readers and strong learners.” Lake Forest College freshman, Elizabeth Brunet, took the words out of our mouth as she delved into how “books develop a foundation for future educational endeavors.” We value the future and believe books and reading are the vehicle and road to a better life.

We want to extend a grateful thank you to the Golden Apple Scholars of Illinois Program for becoming a part of our team for the afternoon and reminding us why we do what we do.