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Children to Receive 40,000 First Books from Historic Partnership

President Paul Drayton at First Book

The second annual First Book Initiative has officially opened at Burlington County College (BCC) to begin distributing 40,000 free, high-quality books to community organizations in Burlington and Mercer counties that serve children in need.

Last year, BCC became the first community college in the nation to formally incorporate this literacy initiative in its curriculum. The initiative was so successful that New Jersey Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks provided funds to expand the project to advance her vision of a statewide effort. Fulton Bank has also provided financial and volunteer support toward the effort.

“Burlington County College and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey have shown that it is possible to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children by giving them access to high-quality books. College students also gained from the experience, acquiring workplace skills and as they learned how to be caring, responsive citizens,” said Secretary Hendricks. “We are thrilled that the success of First Book is being replicated at Mercer County Community College. I look forward to our national model expanding throughout our state to other community colleges.”

The new high-quality books donated by publishers to the nonprofit organization First Book arrived at BCC’s Briggs Road Center on Friday and more than 350 volunteers are spending the week sorting, bundling and distributing the books to 70 eligible organizations that serve children in need including low-income, military or disabled. The initiative strives to improve childhood literacy and educational achievement.

“A child’s First Book is a ticket toward a better life through education,” BCC President Paul Drayton Jr. said. “Burlington County College is proud to be a part of this partnership that is setting a national example of how to improve literacy and education for children regardless of their background.”

This year, BCC proudly welcomed Mercer County Community College to the project.

“The path to life-long learning begins early, and First Book establishes a clear direction that will enable area children to pursue that goal,” MCCC President Dr. Patricia C. Donohue said. “These books will make a real difference in our communities and we are so pleased for this opportunity to join an historic effort for literacy.”

The effort was initially proposed by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey as part of its education initiative, “Making New Jersey More Competitive.”

“The chamber supports a number of initiatives that provide an immediate impact in transforming the lives of young people and placing them on a path of success, and community colleges are uniquely positioned to facilitate that transformation,” said John E. Harmon Sr., the chamber’s president and CEO who also serves on First Book’s national Board of Directors. “We sparked a flame of education last year that is slowly spreading the light of knowledge throughout the state."

Pictured: BCC’s new President Paul Drayton Jr. helps volunteers sort and label books at the opening of Burlington County College’s First Book distribution center at its Briggs Road Center in Mount Laurel.