A Reflection: Improving Child and Adult Literacy, One Book at a Time

by Marvin Mathew   •  

In the days following the Opportunity Nation Summit the true grandeur of the mission to open up social and economic mobility was a zealous and audacious one in many ways. Such an issue that has troubled society for so long cannot be solved with the same thoughts; instead, it takes an entirely new mindset or as Albert Einstein says, “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew.”

A strong believer in empowerment, I sought to show students at a young age that they are capable of breaking out of the cycle of poverty. Empowerment and education go hand in hand – somebody that is better educated stands more a chance to succeed in a competitive society. A system that doesn’t promote education and critical thinking perpetuates a cycle that keeps people down, locking the masses into that life. As a result ones zip code is given the power to determine where he/she can go the rest of your life. The goal of Opportunity Nation is to break that stereotype and cycle- educating people is key.

The result of my research and drive to complete the mission I was tapped for by my selection to Opportunity Nation begins with empowerment through education. As a society, if we can get kids ready early on for the future they have a better shot of succeeding, avoiding prison, and making it through college. These are big goals and require the help, support, and efforts of many. I worked with a few students that had common goals and values. Each of us wanted to see our society grow more equal and access to opportunity open regardless of class, race, and religion. This inspired common purpose was key for our book drive.

The excitement of our group translated directly into success. With a goal of collecting 1,000 books, we more than quadrupled our goal collecting 4,100 books. Seeking to make an impact promoting literacy and education in the county, my colleagues and I donated the books to five organizations in Rockland, New York that work day in and out to do so: Rockland 21st Century Collaborative for Children & Youth; Adults Caring for Teens Inc.; Head Start of Rockland County; Martin Luther King Center; and the Theresa Morahan Simmons Center for Children and Families at SUNY Rockland.

We gathered for a good cause, organized, and worked with anybody that was interested in helping the next generation succeed. Working in the spirit of collaboration we accomplished what we set out to do and more. The first step to any successful project is reaching out to find out who cares enough to work with you. Gaining the help of media to get the message and engage as much of the community as possible is equally important.

The number of books that the students and I raised speaks to the true power of collaboration. The message is clear: together we can. 

Marvin Mathew is a Junior studying Government at the University of Maryland, College Park and is involved in a number of initiatives which he helped create including the Rockland Roundtable Initiative- a group working in community solutions and development in Rockland, New York and ReEnvision Your Future- a group empowering youth to get engaged in their communities, helping them turn their ideas into real action. He aspires to practice law and someday run for office to help make society a better place for everyone who lives in it; regardless of their zip code. 

Marvin Mathew

Active in startups, Marvin supports early stage entrepreneurs and ventures. He cares deeply about innovation and technology — particularly its application for impact. Marvin actively seeks opportunities to bring the tech and business community closer to civic and social solutions.

Marvin is a member of our inaugural cohort of Opportunity Leaders since 2011. Connect with him at @marvin_mathew.

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