June 28, 2023

Students collect hundreds of children’s books to help Detroit nonprofit

students walking and carrying boxes

Students in a recent Children’s Literature class took it upon themselves to help Hey Y’all Detroit by donating children’s book to help their mission across the city.

Charmane Neal was overwhelmed with emotion when she heard what Schoolcraft College students did for her organization.

Neal, the founder of Detroit nonprofit Hey Y’all Detroit, recently came to campus to pick up a portion of nearly 1,000 donated children’s books collected by students in a spring Children’s Literature class.

“I’m just really grateful and words can’t explain how happy I am right now,” said Neal, who previously attended Schoolcraft College before attending Wayne State University. “I don’t think you understand the impact that this is going to have.”

The class, taught by English Faculty Member April Harden, included a Service Learning component, which for this class included collecting books over a three-week period for the Detroit organization. Hey Y’all Detroit is an initiative dedicated to paying it forward to inner city communities that has several methods of giving back, including through books, food and community gardens.

The organization had its truck used for driving around the city stolen last fall. That included many books Neal and others would lend and give to children, leaving them without just as school started.

Seeing that need, students in the class then began collecting books from all over: work, libraries, family members and more. Slowly but surely, the students amassed books and quickly figured out they had plenty of donations to pass along to Hey Y’all Detroit.

group of students holding books
Students in a spring session of Children’s Literature take a photo with Charmane Neal, founder of Hey Y’all Detroit, at Schoolcraft College. The students recently collected hundreds of children’s books as a part of their course and donated them to Hey Y’all Detroit, which had its vehicle containing its books stolen last fall.

It didn’t take long for the small class to figure out they were onto something special.

“In the first or second week, we were in the group chat and people were like, ‘I have books,’” said Angie Seranian, a student in the class. “And someone else comes up and says, ‘I have books.’ Everybody already has books right now.”

Soon, box after box filled with books accumulated in a room in the Liberal Arts building, so many that Neal could not fit them all on her car in one trip. It’s a gesture, Neal said, that is unmatched for her three-year-old organization.

“Hey Y’all wouldn’t be able to continue if it wasn’t for the generosity of people like you,” Neal said. “It’s been really hard recovering from that theft. We’re still trying to pick up the pieces.

“For it to be over 1,000 books, I don’t even know. I’m just really excited and really grateful.”

Seranian said while the students began collecting books, she’s noticed the organizations they reached out to want to continue donating to Hey Y’all Detroit.

“It wasn’t just an ‘us’ thing,” she said. “We kind of spread the word for other people to continue it now, too.”

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