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Midvale Journal

Draper Park honor students donate books to replace Union’s fire-damaged collection

Feb 24, 2020 01:34PM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Park students package up donated books to give to Union Middle School to replace those that were damaged in last October’s fire. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Draper Park eighth-grader Erin Rosemary Akins picked out about 30 books off her own bookshelf as well as at a store to bring in for her National Junior Honor Society’s book drive for Union Middle School.

On Oct. 24, 2019, a fire engulfed several classrooms at Union Middle School. For months, crews worked to clean the smoke and soot damage, however, more than five months later, teachers are still trying to recover items lost in the fire.

Canyons School District Business Manager and Chief Financial Officer Leon Wilcox said insurance would cover many items, but Draper Park Middle School students knew they could help as well.

“As soon as I learned that their classroom library sets had been damaged, I knew I wanted to help,” said Erin Rosemary, who is the student NJHS officer overseeing the new and gently-used book drive to benefit Union Middle School. “I really like reading so it’s important to have access to good books. I like service, giving back to the community. It makes me feel good about giving back.”

Erin Rosemary brought in favorites such as “Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “Chronicles of Narnia.” Together, with other NJHS, they packed those in along with other books ranging from “Michael Vey” and “Fablehaven” to “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and “Johnny Tremain.” There also were donations of dictionaries and thesauruses. 

The book drive was held in mid-February and NJHS students counted the books as they packaged them. As of press deadline, the Draper students had already gathered more than 1,200 books for their 1,000-book goal. The books were expected to be delivered to Union Middle by late February.

“Every year, our NJHS students come up with and select projects they want to do,” said Kylie Arbon, who is the teacher/librarian overseeing the students’ book drive. “The kids are really into this. They’re checking in and wanting to help.”

Sixth-grade Union English language arts teacher Melony Hurlburt is grateful.

“I have about 50 to 60% of what I had before the fire,” she said. “Whatever books they donate to replace our classroom library sets is greatly appreciated.” 

The books will first go to replace the damaged classroom sets as the students indicated. After that, Hurlburt said additional books will be shared with other teachers in the school. Once the books are put in the classrooms, she plans on having her Union students write a thank you to their peers at Draper Park Middle.

Hurlburt said it’s important that the sixth-grade team of English/language arts teachers have these sets available for checkout.

“When kids are finished with their assignments, they can just grab a book to read,” she said. “Anytime you can put a book in a kid’s hand is important. We always want to have books available.”