Innovation Fund Report: Wesleyan Book Buds

Wesleyan students from a range of majors and interests – all with shared interests in utilizing resources in innovative ways to positively impact the greater Middletown community – applied to the Student Innovation Fund.  The fund provided up to $750 for spring OR summer projects that prioritized:

  • Collaboration between student groups, faculty/staff, and/or community partners.
  • Investigation of the impact of our civic engagement efforts.
  • Sharing of ideas and learnings in civic engagement on campus and beyond.


Ricardo Vega ’21, Melisa Olgun ’20, Leila Etemad ’21, Kaila Scott ’19, Sadie Robb ’21, and Margarita Fuentes ‘21 coordinate Wesleyan Book Buds. Read their report below:

The Wesleyan Book Buds aims to bridge the literacy gap for students living in primarily low-income communities in Middletown. We do so by organizing book drives and donating books to several community partners, including schools, religious organizations, and literacy programs. Our partners this year were Macdonough Elementary School, Woodrow Wilson Middle School, the Book Mobile project, and the Cross Street Church After School Tutoring Program. For our first year, we hosted an on-campus book drive called “Bring A Book Back,” an initiative modeled after previous book drives hosted by Wesleyan students in Professor Barbara Juhasz Psychology of Reading class. We asked Wesleyan students to bring children’s books with them from home and donate them to donation bins placed around campus for over a week.

With both the books that were donated during the book drive and the extra books we purchased using some of the remaining grant money, Book Buds was able to donate a total of 255 books to our community partners! We donated any books that were unsuitable for a young audience (e.g. textbooks) to the Wesleyan Resource Center. In addition, we were able to donate 2 bookshelves to the Cross Street Church Tutoring Program.

The program was such as success that we were invited to join the Office of Community Service starting in the 2019-2020 school year so that we would be able to expand the program further in the years to come!

Although we are proud of what we accomplished this year, we did run into a few problems. For one, we struggled finding times to meet as a group due to people’s conflicting schedules. We, unfortunately, were not able to retain every original member because of these conflicts. In addition, we believe that we could have been in more contact with our community partners earlier in the year so they would be able to have more of a voice in what would happen in the book drives. We hope that in the coming years we strengthen our relationships with the community partners we have now, and we that will be able to expand our reach in the Middletown community by contacting more community organizations.

We hope that next year we will be able to continue hosting on-campus book drives by making the Bring A Book Back Drive an annual program. We also would love to host community-wide book drive events in the Middletown community in order to get more books and interact with community members. Our goal for the program is to also become a literacy mentorship program where our members can have the chance to help Middletown students learn to read or improve reading skills.

The program is off to a strong start and none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the support that we have received from the Wesleyan community. We would like to thank Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff for donating and spreading the word about the Bring A Book Back Drive. We would also like to thank Professor Barbara Juhasz for inspiring the idea of having a book drive and Demetrius Colvin from the Resource Center for his support and suggestions for the program. Finally, we would like to thank the JCCP for awarding us the grant! Without it, we would not have been able to have achieved as much as we have this year!

We look forward to working and growing next year and make sure to keep an eye on our future events!

All the best,

The Wesleyan Book Buds