In the latest Around Town column, news about a local fifth grader's plan to create a Free Little Library in East Palo Alto and a Stanford University swimmer who was named the Pac-12 Woman of the Year.
BUILD IT, AND THEY WILL COME ... During the early part of the pandemic, Palo Alto fifth grader Arjun Agarwal set up a Free Little Library in the front yard of his home as a way to encourage neighbors and friends to stay engaged. He is now working to expand the free book exchange program into additional surrounding neighborhoods.
Through donations from the local community and Stratford School, where he is a student, Arjun has raised $390 to fund his next library in an East Palo Alto neighborhood this summer.
The fifth grader built his first bookcase by hand and stocked it with a variety of books, including editions of his self-written and illustrated children's book "Where is the Little Dinosaur?"
"I am an avid reader and used to visit the Palo Alto Children's Library very often," Arjun said. "I wished I could exchange some books with the kids in my neighborhood without interacting with them (during the pandemic shutdown). Since there was no library in my neighborhood, I decided to build one."
His library quickly proved to be a popular resource, with children — and books — frequently coming and going into his front yard, he said. After seeing the impact of his first library, he decided that he wanted to build more. He selected a neighborhood in East Palo Alto for his second location because he wants to include areas where books are not as easily accessible.
"It is important for kids to be able to read and enjoy a variety of books and appreciate the concept of sharing," Arjun said. "I want to make many more libraries for the neighborhoods so kids find it fun and feel good about their communities."
Arjun's project is part of the nonprofit Little Free Library program, which helps facilitate the placement of libraries nationwide. The organization's network of libraries includes about 150,000 locations nationwide.
A SWIMMING SUCCESS ... Stanford University swimmer Brooke Forde was named the Pac-12 Woman of the Year, an award that recognizes student-athletes that have excelled in academics, sports, community service and leadership, the collegiate athletic conference said Tuesday.
She joins an exclusive group of fellow Cardinal women who have previously received the award: Valarie Allman for track and field in 2018, Chiney Ogwumike for basketball in 2014 and Arianna Lambie for track and field and cross country in 2008.
Forde is one of two Pac-12 athletes in the running for the NCAA's Woman of the Year (they are among 151 athletes nominated as of late July). The other is Emma Nordin, a swimmer for Arizona State University.
Forde, who hails from Louisville, Kentucky, recently finished her master's degree in epidemiology with a 4.2 GPA. She also has an undergraduate degree in human biology, which was completed last year with a 3.96 GPA. She assisted the Stanford women's swimming and diving team in earning the NCAA championship in 2018 and 2019, as well as Pac-12 championships in 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2022. Her athleticism also paid off during the Tokyo Olympics, where she won the silver medal in the 800 free relay.