South Forsyth High School’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter worked this school year to improve literacy in Forsyth County amid the pandemic as part of their annual community service project.
Abhishek Pasupleti, a junior at South Forsyth, said the effort began when he worked with two of his friends to come up with an idea for their community service project through the FBLA. After speaking with the chapter advisor, they decided to send out a survey to the community to see how the students of FBLA could best serve the community during the pandemic.
The survey asked students, families and community members what they were most struggling with at the time, and overwhelmingly, Pasupleti said the community told them they were struggling with education and with social and mental health.
Pasupleti and his friends who helped organize the project, Ayush Gundawar and Anish Kanchanapally, decided that is exactly where they would put all of their focus.
They thought back to when they would all help read to and tutor students at Cumming Elementary School and remembered how much that interaction helped students just as much as it helped parents who did not have the time to help their kids with schoolwork at home.
From there, they made the decision to help parents and students with their education both at home, for those going to school virtually, and in hospitals, for kids stuck in a hospital bed with fewer visitors.
They quickly created a three-step plan that the entire South Forsyth FBLA chapter could take part in — they wanted to partner with area hospitals, create videos for patients and students to help with literacy and raise funds for an area library.
They began implementing this plan first by reaching out to Brad Harrison with Navicent Health and Wendy Threatt with Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. Through these professionals, Pasupleti and his friends were able to connect with four different hospitals in the area.
Then, they reached out to other students in their FBLA chapter to ask them to create videos of them simply reading books. The members ended up creating around 63 different videos, which they sent to the hospitals so children there could watch them.
“With [the coronavirus pandemic], you don’t have as many patient visiting time hours,” Pasupleti said. “And then you also have kids going into the hospital with the coronavirus when it gets serious. It’s really just to help them have that interaction and get that experience that everyone enjoyed as a kid just getting a book read to them.”
While Pasupleti and the other students were not able to see any of the kids who received the videos, he said one of the hospitals sent a photo to him of a little girl watching one on her iPad with a huge smile on her face.
“It’s the kind of thing you like to see — that your project is actually helping people,” Pasupleti said.
The chapter also sent the videos to teachers in the district and to the Sharon Forks Library where they continued with the project this semester.
They began collecting books from throughout the community for the library in south Forsyth in January and continued with the effort through the end of March. By then, they had collected 324 books.
The three students also partnered with Chipotle to hold an FBLA night at the restaurant where 33% of sales made went toward donations to the library. The students hoped the books and funds could help the library provide even more resources to kids during the pandemic and even beyond.
Going forward, Pasupleti said he hopes to continue to provide the videos created by the FBLA chapters to kids as communities slowly begin to make the transition to more in-person events and activities.
For more information or to keep up with South Forsyth’s FBLA chapter, visit www.southforsythfbla.com.