Old textbooks find new life
in rural high schools
By Matt Kelly
Jain remembers where he came from. His efforts to procure more
modern textbooks for his old high school in Bluefield has led
to the creation of Hoos for Learning, a student organization that
gathers learning materials for under-funded schools.
by Matt Kelly
for Learning founding members Olena Sexton (from left), Edmund
Lee Etheridge, Vivek Jain and Kristie Southall work out plans
for the future.
a third-year biochemistry major, and his brother, Anand, started
their crusade when he found that U.Va.s Introduction to
had switched books, and students had no market for their old books.
graduate of Graham High School in Tazewell County in the southwestern
region of the state, Jain taught an SAT preparatory course there
over the summer and knew that the students in advanced placement
biology were using textbooks from 1989.
started asking friends on Grounds who had taken the biology course
for their old books, specifically Campbells Biology, Fifth
Edition. He also contacted professors, one of whom, Leo Racich,
donated a complete instructors set of textbook and work
materials to the cause, and distributed Jains e-mail to
his entire class. Jain was able to acquire 20 books for Grahams
advanced placement biology class.
then contacted Addison Wesley Publishers, whose Benjamin Cummings
subsidiary publishes Campbells Biology. The publishers donated
three complete sets of books, 15 texts each, for the three other
high schools in Tazewell.
The effort was rewarding, but time-consuming, Jain said.
realized I couldnt do this alone. I was spending 10 hours
a week on e-mail follow-up and picking up textbooks.
sought help from his friends, which generated its own ripple effect.
Olena Sexton, who had donated her book to Jain, started thinking
about her own school in Bland County, which did not have an AP
biology course, but needed books for its advanced biology class.
She contacted friends from high school who were students at Virginia
Tech and Radford and was able to send 16 copies of Campbells
Biology back to Bland.
Lee Etheridge, a second-year English and religious studies student
from Hampton Roads, now wants to see if he can get donations of
books for advanced placement English classes, noting that some
students have no access to Shakespeare or Norton anthologies.
is mysteriously gratifying, very rewarding, Etheridge said.
County native Kristie Southall said she got involved because when
she attended Girls State leadership program in government
as a high-school junior, she talked with a girl whose school provided
new texts every year. Southall said she wanted to do something
about the disparity that existed from one area to another.
noted that the book drives dovetail with the Universitys
2020 initiative in public service, which calls for students to
be more active in the community.
Hoos for Learning is still working on other ideas to help students
in schools in Southwest Virginia, he said. Beyond textbooks, the
group has collected compact disks with animations of biological
processes, which help bring the subject alive for students.
B. Mullins, Graham High Schools advanced placement biology
teacher, said the county was not planning on buying new books
for the course for another three years. The 18 books she received
from Jain were enough for all of her students, she said, although
their mid-year arrival meant she had to do some catch up.
I think its wonderful they are so concerned about
keeping students up to date, she said.
joked that her students were less pleased about the software Jain
sent that enabled her to write more difficult tests.
Peery, director of educational technology in Tazewell, expressed
gratitude for the more than $5,000 in books and materials he received
for his cash-strapped county.
I heard about this, I thought what a nice thing for these
kids to do, Peery said. I can see a lot of applications
for the rural areas, because there are a lot of bright kids, but
the tax base and the resources are not as much, so they are at
students efforts to help their communities also is influencing
their career plans. Jain is considering Teach for America, which
would require him to teach for two years in underprivileged areas.
He said he would be returning to Tazewell not only because it
is his home, but because the mountains have a hold on him.
also plans to return home after some travel. She said her goal
is to become a dentist and work in her community, while also acting
as a role model. I would encourage these students to go
to a four-year college and to get away from the tight-knit community
for a while, she said.
said she wants to earn a masters degree in chemistry. She
said she has considered rural medicine, but will probably teach.