The Senior Class Chooses “Cougar Corners”

This Friday, Oct. 13, National Honor Society will hold a book drive in front of Kingston Stadium at the Kennedy versus Ottumwa football game


Mark Benischek

NHS officers announcing the project to their class on Aug. 30.

Darby Herridge, Profile Editor

Senior Grace Herring lives in Palo and this summer she went to into the Cedar Rapids Public Library to get a library card and was told she wasn’t allowed to receive a card from any of the Cedar Rapids metro area libraries because she lived in Palo.

Residents of Palo are not allowed to receive a library card because Palo doesn’t charge its residents the part of the property tax that funds a metro library.

“It really bothered me that young kids in Palo didn’t have access to the library,” Herring said. As a National Honor Society officer, she and other members plan to establish a free library in Palo. “This project is really important to me because I feel it has potential to make a big difference. Our entire class can work together to better our community.”

The Cedar Rapids Library website explains more than one in four third graders in the area do not read proficiently at the end of third grade. This increases to more than one in three for low income students. Students who are not proficient are four times more likely to not graduate on time, which increases to 13 times if they are also from a low income household. (Click here to find out more about the “Take on Literacy” campaign.)

This year, the senior class is partnering with the Cedar Rapids Public Library’s Take on Literacy campaign to establish “Cougar Corners.”

Samantha Bennett, Karter Donahue, Grace Duffy and Grace Herring are National Honors Society officers and in charge of the senior class project idea.

“Sam Bennett and Grace Herring both wanted to do something with the library but we didn’t know exactly what we could do, so we met with the volunteer coordinators at the library and they proposed this idea and we just ran with it,” Karter Donahue, sr., said.

Cougar Corners will be small book shelves filled with books distributed to businesses all around Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Marion. The project will impact the lower income community and children and families without access to books.

“I’m extremely excited. I have high hopes for the senior service project this year. We’ve gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from our class, and NHS members seem eager to get this project running,” Sam Bennett, sr., said. “We’ve got a great group working on the project, so I think everything is in good hands.”

The project will be split up into four main parts. One will be book drives, to collect books to stock. The second is fundraising, to buy books and to establish a free library in Palo. Another is outreach, to find businesses and organizations that want to house a Cougar Corner. And the last project idea is distribution, taking the shelves, books and library information to the organizations that requested materials and want these set up.

“This project is very meaningful for me. I love the library, and I volunteer there regularly. I’ve seen how many people go through its doors every day, and I’ve seen people of all backgrounds enjoy what the library offers,” Bennett said. “To help promote the library and a love of reading is something I find pretty significant. I intend to make this project the best it can be and I know my fellow officers and NHS members feel the same way.”

If the senior class meets their 50-shelf goal ahead of schedule, they intend to keep going and get more shelves out until the senior NHS students graduate in May.

“I am extremely excited to finally get this project started for real. We have been planning every part of it out all summer, so it’s exciting that we will finally be able to start the whole process,” Donahue said.

For any seniors who haven’t already, the sign up to help is available at