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Literacy Crossing The Border
Riverbank High School senior Stephanie Zarate has a love for books that has prompted her to create a senior project that includes sharing books with other high school students in Mexico. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

Sharing a love for reading with not only students at Riverbank High School but also with students at CECITEJ Bachillerato Tecnologico and Escuela Preparatoria Regional San Martin Hidalgo in Mexico, RHS senior Stephanie Zarate has focused her senior project on spreading the love of literacy to Mexico.

Zarate is an RHS student, born in the U.S., with Mexican parents that have relatives that live in Mexico and this past summer she spent some time visiting them in Jalisco, Mexico. While she was there she familiarized herself with other teens and realized that they shared a passion for reading.

“A book can open up to a portal of many possibilities, one being the chance to learn another language,” stated Zarate. “I have had the opportunity to read books in both English and Spanish that have provided me with a different perspective on social situations.

“During my stay at my parents’ native country, I decided to visit several schools that could possibly benefit from the project.”

While Zarate was in Mexico she visited two different high schools that have students in 10th through 12th grades called CECITEJ Bachillerato Tecnologico and Escuela Preparatoria Regional San Martin Hidalgo. The schools do not provide books or any materials to their students so the only thing they receive from the teachers are worksheets or they take notes while the teacher writes on the board.

Realizing that there was a need for books at both these high schools, Zarate was on a mission to collect 1000 books to send to the students in Mexico.

After spending some time with her senior project mentor, Marie Shubin, Zarate knew that her senior project of collecting these books could truly become a reality. The book collection began in August and continued through the month of December.

“I interviewed a total of nine students, one of them being Frida Robles. Frida Edith Robles Camacho was born in Castro Valley, California and English was her first language,” explained Zarate. “She migrated to Mexico when she was in fifth grade, and has been living in Mexico ever since.”

Robles revealed that there were many differences between the schools in the U.S. and Mexico and even though they do not receive school supplies she still likes her school in Mexico.

Subsequently, Zarate has exceeded her goal and collected 1,227 total books that will be donated to both the schools in Mexico.

Now the challenge is getting these books to the students at these high schools, which could be a large expense. So Zarate is reaching out to the community for help with this expense and is currently accepting donations.

“Understanding how essential reading is, I want to help other students by advocating how literacy plays an important role when obtaining another language,” expressed Zarate. “My goal is to help students become bilingual so that their opportunities in this globally-competitive world will expand.”

Helping Zarate surpass her goal were Security Public Storage and International Paper Company in Modesto, with donations of boxes and creation of a logo and sign for her project.

“I thank all of the people who donated books to this project, but our work is still not over,” added Zarate. “Since shipping these books across the border will be pricey, it would be greatly appreciated if local businesses or community members would donate for the cause.

“Together, we can finish making this project a reality.”

Zarate is seeking assistance from the community for donations to get the books shipped to the two high schools in Mexico. They would like to get the books shipped to Mexico as soon as possible.

To donate funds for the shipping costs email