Believing that “everyone deserves a chance to read” Cupertino High School junior Chelsea Hu organized a new club on campus this year: the Tino Prisoner’s Literature Project. The goal of the club is to promote education within the United States prison system by sending books to prisoners.
Chelsea commented that, “If you’re ever stuck somewhere with nothing to do, you know the boredom that can drive some people crazy. Access to literature and educational materials can help prisoners working for social change, inner change, or a change of lifestyle.”
While volunteering in Berkeley last summer, Chelsea worked with the Prisoner’s Literature Project, a non-profit organization that started in the 1980s. She was so inspired by the mission of the group that she was determined to expand that mission to the Cupertino High School campus.
Chelsea asked CHS English teacher Nikki Merrick if she would serve as the adviser to the club. CHS students resonated with this noble goal and TPLP meets every other week in Ms. Merrick’s classroom to respond to prisoner’s requests for books. These requests come from all over the country and prisoners often indicate a particular genre of book that they would like to receive. The club has collected many donated books and the students do their best to select a book that matches a prisoner’s request. Students write a three to five sentence note about the book and the book and note are packaged at the meeting and then forwarded to the Prisoner’s Literature Project who mail the package to the prisoner.
Strict procedures are in place to guarantee the safety and anonymity of the students. Letters from prisoners only contain information about the kind of book requested and all student letters and packages are assembled under Ms. Merrick’s supervision. Students write under the name Penelope and there is no way for the packages to be traced back to Cupertino High School.
Supplies of donated books are depleted quickly and the club is eager to receive additional donations. Community members who would like to donate books can bring them to the Cupertino High School’s main office.
Additional photos of the Tino PLP Club meeting:
National Prisoners Literature Project website: