Justin Bray’s creative approaches to inequity in our local community have generated positive social change for young children and their families. His primary leadership occurs with Books for Keeps (BFK), an organization dedicated to addressing inequity in the availability of reading material for young children. Here, Justin directs over 1000 volunteers in the distribution of more than 100,000 books per year to children to combat summer declines in reading. When the pandemic affected the ability of BFK to deliver books through schools, Justin developed an online platform and delivery system to ensure local children could still receive their choice of books in summer 2020. Outside of his work with BFK, Justin also volunteered in the local school district to deliver meals to food-insecure children and their families during the start of the COVID crisis. He again brought his creative leadership to bear as he worked with the school district to create an innovative delivery system increasing the number of meals delivered per week from 17,000 to 37,000 in less than four weeks’ time. Justin is committed to creating innovative ways to help Georgia’s students excel in early education, and we look forward to seeing his positive impact continue.
My experience working with community students through local nonprofit Books for Keeps is what initially inspired me to make the return to college following a ten-year absence. The achievement gap many elementary students face today exists not due to lack of desire or drive, but instead because of lack of access to reading materials outside the classroom. That is why I joined Books for Keeps, to help eliminate this gap. Over the past 3 years with BFK, I have worked to ensure that almost 9,000 elementary school students across Georgia are given the opportunity to grow their home libraries 12 books at a time. COVID-19 threatened the future of our program, yet, through collaboration and the help from 600 volunteers, I created an online platform that allowed students to not only select their books but also have them delivered straight to their doorsteps. This reimagining of our program allowed us to distribute more than 100,000 new and used books into our community and provided inspiration for more innovative ways to reach our youngest citizens. In the future, I look forward to pursuing a career that allows for continuous advocacy of children in my community and beyond.