500 books donated to RISSE by Queensbury students honoring Michelle Bennett

Group of refugee children posing with books
Group of RISSE children posing with their new books courtesy of Queensbury UFSD

Early in 2022, Queensbury High School English teacher Kerri Bundy studied Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” with her students, which turned into an interactive exploration of “Sea Prayer” by the same author within Google’s VR platform. The novels are in part about the experience of refugees.

On his website, the author Hosseini says that by publishing these books, he hopes to pay tribute to the millions of families who have been splintered and forced away from their home by war and persecution.

Kerri Bundy emphasized empathy in her teachings. “At its best, literature can build empathy, and if we’re really lucky, empathy can become action!” she said during her presentation about the outcome of the student’s RISSE trip. 

Her student’s action took the form of a book drive to honor the late teacher Michelle Bennett, with intent to donate all of the books to RISSE: Refugee and Immigrant Support Services Emmaus. 

RISSE, located in Albany, is an organization that tutors refugees and immigrants who are learning English and working to be successful in school. Their mission is to equip refugees and recent immigrants to build sustainable, independent lives by offering language and literacy instruction, as well as support with life skills and integration into U.S. culture and their new community.

A rolling book cart full of books
A partial collection of the books donated in honor of Michelle Bennett

Within just a short few months, the Queensbury students collected nearly 500 gently used and brand-new books between the middle and high school. 

First, students had to package the books. Student volunteers Emma Slupik, Carys Bartlett, Ashley Miller, Kristina Mannix, Koral Marcantonio, Jocelyn Pepe, Isabella Wrobleski, and Lindsay Bauer spent hours meticulously sorting the books, tying special rainbow ribbons, and placing specially-crafted bookmarks in their favorite pages as gifts.

Then, on April 1st, students Maddie Maceachron, Anna Bearor, Jocelyn Pepe, Olivia Haley, Maddie Leaver, Allison Dittrich, Allyson Sheffield, Kacey Hall, Henry Campopiano, Lucas Powell, and Michael Kilgallon loaded the carefully wrapped books into the Q-munity bus along with activities for them to facilitate with the RISSE kids.

Group of female students holding grocery bags, presumably filled with books
Students load the books onto the Q-munity bus

Then it was time for their trip to RISSE! Lloyd Gordon and  Dave Hamell transported the students and the materials safely to Albany.

“The Q-munity Bus was a HUGE hit with the refugee children, and our students were absolutely amazing with the kids! They played Uno and Bingo and Chess in addition to delivering the books and running all things awesome on the Q-munity Bus!” said Bundy.

Students participate in activities on the Q-munity bus
Students participate in activities led by Queensbury students

High school students crouch next to activities

Group of teens sit at a cafeteria table for a meal
Queensbury teens enjoy a special meal made by the RISSE cooks

Thank you to everyone who donated books to the schools, to RISSE for so graciously welcoming the Queensbury students for a meal and activities, and to the bus drivers for taking the time to ensure safe transportation. 

For more information on RISSE and how you can continue to support, visit their webpage at: http://www.risse-albany.org/