Palmetto High School senior Samantha Herron works hard to get books into the hands of children. Herron is the vice president of the junior board for Help a Little Woman (HALO). The community service group was formed to help feed the people of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. Later, the project morphed into an effort to provide foster children with books.
“We set up a library and give kids free range to get what books they want,” she says.
Herron collects books ranging from babies to 18 year olds. She gets helps from youngsters working on Boy Scout projects, bar and bat Mitzvah projects and from friends. She has collected books at school, but stopped doing it as an official club project because it became difficult navigating through all the bureaucracy. Now she has the books brought to her house.
The books are taken to a variety of events for foster children and their families such as adoption carnivals or large-scale workshops where the kids are taken on field trips. They put the books on shelves and tell the kids to take two or three. However, at the end of the day they allow them to take as many as they like.
“It’s so nice to see the kids take the books, they are so excited,” Herron says.
“When I do this, it’s usually a 12-hour day.”
She categorizes the books according to age and subject.
“A lot of kids don’t have a lot of items that are their own,” she says. “We give them little labels (with their names) and book marks. It’s really nice.”
Herron became involved with HALO when they were expanding to include foster children in the program.
“I’ve grown up hearing about the injustice of the foster care system,” Herron says. “It’s really a shame; the foster kid that we’re able to reach, they are with the caring foster families.”
At Palmetto, Herron is on the History Bowl team and a member of the Social Science Honor Society. “We made it to nationals this year,” she says. “We almost made it to the playoffs. We were in 33rd and you needed to be in 32nd place.”
Herron competed on the History Bowl team as a sophomore and junior. She plans to do it again as a senior. This year she was on Varsity B team. In the next school year she hopes to be on the A team.
This past year she also competed in the Geography Bee for the first time and she is also involved in the Health Information Project as a peer educator.
“In Florida, health education is no longer a required credit,” she says. “So junior and senior kids go in and talk about drugs and alcohol and HIV/AIDS.”
In the past, the peer educators went to PE or science classes, but this past year, the peer educators taught students in world history classes.
“The history class worked well,” she says. “It’s a really nice program. Having kids teach other kids about health education gets through to them better. You’d be surprised at what these kids ask. Health education is so important. I’ll be doing it again next year.”
This past year, Herron was the secretary of community service for the student council.
Now that she’s a senior, she will begin applying to colleges for admission. She says she will concentrate primarily on small liberal arts colleges in the northeast.
“My dream school is Swarthmore,” she says. “But I’m probably going to go to the University of Florida. I’m visiting Amherst for a summer camp in July.”
Herron plans to major in journalism or English, but says she may combine the two fields and become a teacher.
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld