For Zachery Ramos, books and literacy are a way to spread happiness and adventure. To accomplish that goal, he volunteers with the Gustine Library in Merced County, California, encouraging other teenagers to get involved with the organization. He also constructed a Traveling Library to bring free books to children and elderly individuals who have limited access to books.
Points of Light talked with Zachery about his work with the Gustine Library and the Traveling Library he created.
How did you get involved with the Gustine Library?
It was during Read Across America, and it was Dr. Seuss week. I love literacy and reading, and I thought I’ll make something to help out with getting books to kids who can’t get books from the library. I started that month, and it took four days to build the Traveling Library that I use now to give out books to kids and to elderly people.
What are your responsibilities as the youth leader?
It’s my job to get the kids in the Gustine High School and Middle School to get out into the community more and help out at the library. Recently, some other youths and I helped repaint the library and helped take care of the Gustine Library Book Sale.
What went into creating the Traveling Library?
First, I spent the weekend before I built it trying to find a cart that would work. There was an antique shop called Pluckers Paradise that had an old ice cream cart they were trying to sell. I asked if I could buy it. I went to my grandfather’s house and used his tools. My grandfather, uncle and myself worked day and night to cut into the cart and take out a wall. We started adding shelving into it to put in a bookshelf. I used Plexiglass for the window and door. After that, the cart was done, and I painted it red. I got books for the library from people all over Merced County. At first, people in town were hearing little rumors that I was building something, and, then, they finally saw the finished product. They called and said they had books for me or told me to call them if I ever needed any books. I also posted an ad on Facebook, and people have swarmed to it.
I take the cart out, and I go through my town and many other neighborhood areas to schools and elderly centers. Sometimes, I walk into the park, sit on a bench, and have the cart open. Kids see the books, and they walk up to it. I let them pick one or two books out of it. They can read them there and put the book back or they can take the book home.
What type of impact do you feel you’ve been able to make?
I’ve been doing this for six months, and the impact I’ve been able to make is to get a Traveling Library in Oklahoma. I’ve been recognized by President George Bush, Sr., Vice President Joe Biden and by California Assemblymen.
Last time I checked on the books, I’ve been given more than 5,000.
Can you remember instances where you’ve positively impacted individuals?
One day I went, with the Traveling Library, to an elderly center in town of Los Banos with the president of the Gustine Library Group. We went there, and the people’s faces lit up. They were so happy that someone came to see them. It was a fun time watching them pick books they liked. People were telling us how happy they were that we came down. It was nice to sit and talk with them. They wanted us to come back and do a reading with them.
What lessons do you hope others will take away from seeing your volunteer service?
From my freshman to sophomore years, I didn’t do much volunteering. I’d do something when my teachers mentioned it, but it was never full blown. It wasn’t until my senior year that it hit me how things are going on in the world. I knew that if people don’t try [to do] something, things don’t get gone. I realized […] that volunteering is all about making a difference in other people’s lives.
What are your goals for the future?
My plan by 2020 is to have more states with Traveling Libraries. The plan is, after having Traveling Libraries in almost all states, to branch out to other countries, such as India, Egypt, and the Philippines. The Traveling Libraries are very easy to make. They’re very efficient. Once I get the carts to the countries, I hope to spread literacy.