Since she was 12 years old, Robyn Strumpf has been helping children learn to read. Now, the Jenzabar Foundation has selected her to receive a Student Leadership Grant for her work at USC with the nonprofit organization, Project Books and Blankies.
Last May, Strumpf received an M.S. degree in engineering management from USC and graduated a year prior to that as a Renaissance Scholar with a B.S. in mechanical engineering and a B.A. in political science. Throughout her five years at USC, she was continually involved in community outreach through her organization and numerous partnerships that she formed with other campus groups. She said she was originally attracted to USC because of its strong community outreach programs.
Strumpf started her organization when she was in middle school and today Project Books and Blankies continues to provide books and quilts to children in underserved communities both locally and nationally.
To date, she has donated over 28,000 books and raised over $130,000 in grants and donations of books, fabrics and supplies. With help from a pro bono attorney, she incorporated Project Books and Blankies into a tax-exempt non-profit and personally designed a logo, the stationery, and stickers she places on donated books. She has created starter kits for chapters of Project Books and Blankies across the country.
Working with the Education Consortium of Central Los Angeles, she donated books to numerous USC neighborhood schools and established relationships with teachers, funding their requests for books for classes and afterschool programs. At the beginning of the school year, she also provides book bags filled with school supplies and books to needy children.
Robyn Strumpf, with one or her colorful quilts
"I'm still working with USC ReadersPlus on campus," she said. "In the spring we'll hold our fifth International Reading Festival where kids are read folktales from different regions of the world. The focus of the event is geography, diversity, and tolerance and the students each receive a hard back atlas and other books for their personal libraries. I am also partnering with ReadersPlus this fall to sponsor a book review contest. The first 250 to submit a book review will receive a new book."
Growing up, Strumpf struggled with reading.
"It just took me a very long time to learn to read," she said. Her parents encouraged her sit down with a cozy quilt and perservere, and it finally clicked. "Once I got it, I learned to love reading."
So the "blankies" are also part of her literacy effort. She has taught quilting classes and along with books, gives away colorful quilts for kids to snuggle with while reading.
"Robyn was incredibly involved as an undergraduate and has been involved in her own non-profit since high school," said Louise Yates, associate dean for undergraduate affairs. "She is terrific!"
Strumpf is currently completing a training program at Accenture, a global consulting firm specializing in business systems integration and consulting. Though working fulltime, she said she plans to continue devoting as much time as she can to her literacy campaign.