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Hoyt Student Helps School in Liberia

A Hoyt Middle School student is using money he won in a recent contest to help outfit a school in West Africa with new supplies and technology.

Hoyt sixth-grader Bobby Washington, 12, recently won honorable mention and $25 in a business pitch contest for kids during the I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa African-American Education Day. He decided to use that money to jump-start a fund drive to buy books, school supplies, and computer equipment that he will deliver with his family to Johnny Voker High School in Saclepea, Liberia, when they travel there next summer.

He calls his project Books From Bobby.

The Pitch and Win contest, sponsored by the University of Iowa’s Jacobson Institute for Youth Entrepreneurship and I’ll Make Me a World in Iowa, was open to Iowa students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Bobby’s mom, Stacie Mitchell-Gweah, helped him with the idea. She is taking education courses at Drake University and was tasked with completing a leadership project for one of her classes.

Mitchell-Gweah’s husband, Ben Gweah, is from Liberia. He knew the school principal at Johnny Voker High School, and contacted him to see what the school needed.

“Most of those students don’t own any books,” Mitchell-Gweah said. “Books are like hope to them.”

She said Bobby hopes to raise about $30,000, which will pay for needed supplies and for the shipping to get the goods to Liberia. She may attempt to establish the project as a nonprofit venture, she said.

She hopes to ship some materials to Liberia by December.

Bobby has not been to his stepdad’s homeland. Mitchell-Gweah said she and her husband had been considering a trip there in the summer of 2014, but they hadn’t planned on taking Bobby. But now he’s secured himself a ticket, she said.

Bobby is ready for the adventure, his first overseas trip.

One reason he developed the idea, he said, is because he loves to read. And he likes to help others.

“You notice some kids are less fortunate,” he said. “I wanted to help them. It will be good to actually meet some of the people who get the books.”

Bobby loves to read books about sports, and he belongs to a “Nook Book” club at school. His reading scores have improved this year, said his mother. Also, he has started taking French.

“Reading is his strength, and he loves it,” Mitchell-Gweah said.

Mitchell-Gweah, who teaches computer classes at Hoyt, said she’s been pleased with how Bobby’s plan has evolved.

“It’s kind of exciting,” she said. “You have a passion and you’re doing something to help others. You realize how blessed you are.”


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