Student organizes book drive for worthy cause

Kate Baxendale

Sarina Smith and Benedictine nuns advocate women’s literacy

Queer Alliance President Sarina Smith’s unique opportunity to visit the Benedictine nuns of the Mount St. Scholastica convent with Dr. Virginia Blanton gave her inspiration to help those in need by starting a service learning project.

The “Histories of Reading, Writing and Publishing: Medieval Women’s Literacies” course instructed by Blanton also sparked the idea.

“It was through my course instructed by Dr. Blanton that that I was drawn to start a service learning project instead of writing a regular paper,” Smith said.

The Benedictine nuns at the convent have a mission at the Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kan. They are dedicated to educating urban women with volunteer help. Each week, hundreds of women frequent the Keeler Women’s Center to attend classes.

Aside from literacy, the Keeler Women’s Center offers parenting classes and other life skills classes. Smith visited the Center after learning about Mount St. Scholastica’s mission. Smith spoke with the director, Sr. Carol Ann Petersen, and asked what she could do to help the Keeler Women’s Center. Petersen silently led Smith to their bookshelves.

“For a center that teaches literacy, they are in great need of things to read,” Smith said. “When she presented me their two sad shelves of dusty books (most of which are stories about saints’ lives or nuns), we decided that they could use a few more books.”

The sisters of Mount St. Scholastica are asking for any beginner-level adult books to aid the women of the Keeler Women’s Center.

The center is in desperate need of books about a variety of subjects. Children’s books are also appreciated, as many women leave their children in the nursery while attending classes. Any books the sisters deem to be outside the desired reading range will be sold to purchase other books and supplies for the center.

“They are very hopeful that they have extra books to sell because the lack of bookstores in the area and expense of books makes it nearly impossible for impoverished families to own reading material,” Smith said.

With the book drive, the Keeler Women’s Center hopes to increase the literacy rates among Kansas City women who have not had the opportunity to receive an education.

Mount St. Scholastic has a rich tradition of educating and empowering women.

“Nuns are not a thing of the past, but a leading force in education today,” Smith said. “Nuns hold a variety of jobs such as professors, nurses and craftsmen and are very active in modern society.”

To help the cause, books can be dropped off at several campus locations. Boxes are located in the Women’s Center, Miller Nichols Library lobby and the English Department in Cockefair Hall. The book drive for the Keeler Women’s Center runs through March 23.

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