Some kids like to play video games or watch YouTube. Ryland Adzich, 18, likes to dig into some Russian literature—a task inspired by Gilmore Girls’ Rory Gilmore—or prep for family trivia nights with in-depth history research. As the only child, she’s starting at an age disadvantage for the latter but often prevails. Reading is a vital part of her daily life and how she moves through the world, especially as it relates to education. But she’s not content to keep the joys of literacy to herself.
Ryland held her first book drive in middle school with Bookworm Global and has since become president of the organization, donating more than 40,000 books to underserved communities and helping others set up clubs at their own schools. Going a step further, Ryland founded The Creative Destination, a place dedicated to designing creative literacy spaces to expose underserved youth to reading outside of the classroom.
Setting aside her cross country and track team successes for now, Ryland has her eyes on finishing out senior year strong and investing more time in her philanthropic work. She looks forward to college next year and hopes to use what she learns there to eventually launch herself into a career on Capitol Hill or at a nonprofit. Or, as she jokes, become a superhero and fight crime at night.
What inspires you to volunteer and advocate for literacy?
What inspires me to volunteer is seeing someone have a better day or enjoy reading. Literacy is more than just the ability to read. It’s what connects us. I’ve always been a voracious reader, so when COVID-19 shut local libraries down, I lost access to a space that I really enjoyed. I wanted to provide kids access to books that was lost in the pandemic. I was planning a small book drive when I got a call from a friend who was starting Bookworm Global. She asked me to be the first ambassador.
I founded The Creative Destination after reading in an afterschool program with a group of first grade girls in the Tenderloin. The space was not a welcoming environment. The furniture was ramshackle, the room unkept. This affected the children’s inability to focus.
Tell us about your volunteer role with Bookworm Global and The Creative Destination.
After joining Bookworm Global in middle school, I did my first book drive at a local park and collected over a thousand books. I then established the Bookworm Global Chapter Program for high school students across the nation to start their own club. I train club leaders and new volunteers, and I interview authors and professors of literacy and education for our YouTube channel. In 2022, I became president and manage over 1,000 volunteers.
For The Creative Destination, I enlisted a local artist and a sustainable furniture company to transform the space. Then we raised over $10,000 for the project and have used grant money to purchase laptops for a digital literacy technology room. I’ve created literacy spaces inside 10 laundromats to encourage kids to read and take home books, which we regularly replace. And I manage a partnership between a small school in the Tenderloin and Stanford University’s Reading and Dyslexia Research Program to administer reading assessments for low-income students.
What are your long-term plans or goals for the organizations?
I’d like to get our Bookworm Global volunteer total up to 2,000 by the end of my senior year and to host a nationwide book drive for the upcoming holiday season. My goal for The Creative Destination is to have 20 laundromat literacy spaces by the end of January and my study on how students use the digital literacy technology lab and the benefits.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part is seeing that at least one kid has enjoyed finding that special book from a Bookworm Global book drive or has enjoyed feeling comfortable and safe, like they can tackle reading, in a Creative Destination space. My favorite moment was when I was able to see a video of kids coming in to see the new mural work, and one kid shouted, “That’s me!” referencing an image of a girl who was holding up a test tube and a girl opening up a book.
What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?
An impact comes in all shapes and sizes. Seeing one kid feel safe to read or picking up the first book in the Harry Potter series and wanting to continue reading may seem small, but these moments compound. When you help kids or people in need, people remember that. And those moments create people who want to continue to do good, because they remember the good that someone did for them.
Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?
I think we have a human desire to help someone when they’re in need. Acknowledging that part of human nature and nurturing it creates a world of problem solvers and world shakers, and the world could use some more of that.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
You can start something that may seem small, but as time goes on, as more people see what you’re doing, your impact will grow to heights that you could have never thought possible. I’m truly grateful to everyone at Bookworm Global and The Creative Destination who have been able to help me in my philanthropic work. I would continue to remind people that you have the power to impact someone, and that person is going to impact somebody else. And soon, you have a chain reaction of positive awesomeness.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Ryland? Find local volunteer opportunities.