The single biggest indicator of academic success is having books at home. According to Job K. Twene, founder of Potter’s Gate Charities, Inc., it makes all the difference.
While it’s a fact he takes to heart, he also knows that having books isn’t possible for many low-income families. They’re a luxury many can’t afford. Growing up underprivileged, Twene realized this educational disparity at a young age.
“You know how all the kids live,” he said. “Kids in my school had torn backpacks. The quality of our schools was way below those on the other side of town.”
At 16, Twene took matters into his own hands. He wanted to advance literacy for the underprivileged children in his community.
“I recruited friends to help me hold a book drive in the middle school and distribute them to younger children,” he said.
His next big project was Backpacks for a Future. This program aimed to provide low-to-moderate-income minority children with backpacks and school supplies. He staged this to coincide with the start of the school year.
Two years later, he grew his book drive initiative into a nonprofit organization. This initiative had multiple literacy and education programs. It also included summer literacy programs at two local libraries.
Next, he started a new program called Little Library. This project focused on filling bookshelves at orphanages and foster care centers.
Hope Begins at Home
“Literacy is so important in raising your socio-economic status,” said Twene. “When I was younger, my mom brought me to volunteer with an organization called Give Light which helped orphans. It was heartbreaking to see some of the conditions they lived in. I wanted to give them a book and change their lives.”
Twene credits his mom for inspiring him to get involved as a child. They worked with orphans and foster kids and supported fundraising efforts. They took part in service initiatives through his Boy Scout troop.
“My mom has always encouraged me to give back. I think when I told [her] I wanted to start my own public benefit charitable nonprofit organization she was a bit dubious,” said Twene. “But when she saw how committed I was she was really supportive.”
When Twene launched Backpacks for a Future, his mom applied for a $1,000 grant. She used the grant money to buy backpacks and school supplies. She made a difference for an extra 100 students.
“Some kids don’t even have pencils to do homework assignments,” Twene said. “I want to make this an annual program so kids can start their school year with confidence.”
Looking to the future, Twene hopes to get involved in legal work around education policy. He also wants to continue inspiring others.
“If you find something you’re really passionate about and you make the time to do it, it’s so rewarding,” he said. “I think that every kid should do it. Just go for it.”