For the past 18 months, Elayna Frost has been working on creating a student lending library for The Lewis School of Princeton.
Frost been a Girl Scout since kindergarten; this is her 13th year. She is working toward her Gold Award, which is the highest level of achievement a Girl Scout can earn.
“For my Gold Award I decided to create a student lending library for my school. I attend The Lewis School of Princeton and have for the past three years. The school is for students with learning differences and we do not have a library. I felt we needed a library because I wanted other students to love books and reading like I do and read in their free time,” she said.
Frost designed a mobile bookcase, which is actually two bookcases that are hinged together so it swings open and shut.
“The school holds many events and it needed to be mobile so it could be moved out of the way and fit into a small space. There are wheels on the bottom so the bookcase can be moved with ease. I purchased two inexpensive bookcases for $15 and these were the basis of the project,” she explained. “I worked with my father to repurpose them for my needs.”
Frost also had an idea to connect with a dyslexic author, and found Henry Winkler.
“I wrote him a letter asking if he would donate books to my project and speak with me regarding his journey with dyslexia. I had absolutely no idea that he was a pop culture icon and actor, I knew him only as the author of the ‘Hank Zipzer’ book series.
“A friend of my mother’s helped get the letter to his assistant and she set up a time for us to speak. I researched him more and watched ‘Happy Days’ on Youtube.
“I tried not to be nervous when he called me. I created a list of questions for him about his struggles with dyslexia and how he managed it, his career achievements and life lessons. I was excited and so honored that he took the time to talk with me, almost 40 minutes. I found him to be funny, smart, kind and understanding. I realize now how lucky I am to have met with him and I will carry his inspirational words with me always,” she said.
Two quotes that Winkler said during the phone chat that Frost painted on the inside of the bookcase are: “You have greatness inside you, and your job is to figure out what that is, dig it out, and give it to the world” and the second quote is “You are so powerful and smart” – he wrote this inside a book he sent to Frost from his “Alien Superstar” series.
Winkler also sent eight signed books for the students to have for the library.
To fill the rest of the bookcase, Frost reached out to the community for book donations.
“I looked for new or like-new books for middle school to high school reading levels. My goal was to collect 500 books and within a few weeks I had collected 615. The community was very happy to contribute to my project. Books from comics, to novels, to full series of books like ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Percy Jackson’ were donated. A local author named Alexandra Villasante wrote a book called ‘The Grief Keeper;’ she donated a signed copy for the students. Every book was sanitized, inspected and stored until the project was able to be delivered,” she said.
In order to accomplish her project, Frost recruited a team of two Girl Scout sisters from her troop, a friend, and three students from The Lewis School.
“The pandemic changed everything. I had to figure out a way to make it safe for them to get together and work with me. We got together outside, wearing masks, and socially distanced whenever possible. I had to change my original leadership plan for the team due to these restrictions,” she said.
“I taught my team how to properly prepare wood surfaces for staining. We completed all the top coat finishes of staining, painting and detail work. Over the course of five days we met and worked on the finishing of the bookcase. I also taught a team member how to use pencil and paper to transfer words and images.”
Frost said working on her Gold Award project was a real challenge due to the pandemic.
“It was hard to work on the project with my team and be comfortable with safety. Once I completed my actual project, it was a struggle to deliver it. Due to restrictions within my school I needed to figure out how to present it to the school community. The bookcase itself was at the school from December 2020.
“Just recently, the books were all delivered. The headmaster asked me to create a digital database of the books to limit touching the books and gathering around the bookcase. My team and I created an online library, listing all the books on a website that will be shared with the students. They can then choose the books in a more safe manner,” she said.
Frost said she has learned that no matter how hard it may seem there is a way to work and get things finished.
“You may have to think outside the box, adjust your plan, and be flexible with your plans. For myself, I discovered how hard it is to be a leader but that I can do it. I am very proud of my accomplishments and look forward to what the future holds. I am proud of myself for completing my Gold Award and sticking with it. After all, Henry told me, ‘Where there is a will, there is a way!’ “