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WHS student launches novel mission from afar

Woodbury High School sophomore Gavin Thomas is currently collecting books for a Las Vegas school. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Most students are used to going to the school library and checking out a new book, but for others it’s a luxury they don’t have.

Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy, in Las Vegas, is one such school that isn’t fortunate enough to have its own library.

However, Woodbury High School sophomore Gavin Thomas has taken it upon himself to create the school’s first library.

Now through Jan. 30 Thomas will be collecting books to send to Andre Agassi Colleg ePreparatory Academy’s elementary classes.

Currently, Thomas has collected upward of 300 books.

“I read a lot and I’ve always had access to all these different novels,” he said. “These students are being deprived of that experience growing up, so I was really motivated to collect books for them.”

The Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy (AAPCA) is a kindergarten through grade-12 charter school whose goal is to offer academic programs designed to enhance a child’s character, respect, motivation and self-discipline, according to the website.

The school, located in Las Vegas’ most at-risk neighborhood, was created specifically to improve skill levels and combat lowered academic expectations while creating a climate of hope among the community’s most challenged children.

Thomas learned of AACPA through a family friend who is currently teaching sixth grade social studies at the school through the Teach for America organization.

Thomas kicked off his book drive earlier this month by contacting the WHS hockey team, which he plays for, and the school’s band program, which he plays in.

Thomas said he also posted an announcement about the book drive to Facebook.

“I was surprised by the response,” he said. “A lot of people reached out to me. I guess word just got around.”

Thomas said he was primarily looking for social studies or nonfiction books.

He said he will be shipping out as many books as he can collect on Jan. 30 thanks to Magill Accounting in Oakdale, which has agreed to sponsor the shipping.

Thomas will be going one step further before sending the books to Las Vegas; he will be writing messages in the books.

“It shows them that students their age enjoy books too,” he said, “not just older people.”

Thomas said he has enjoyed his book drive thus far and is excited for the impact the books will make on the students’ lives.

“Books are really important for learning and if you don’t have the books you’re deprived of learning and enjoyment,” he said. “I hope they start an enjoyment with reading and are able to absorb some of the knowledge that is contained in the books.”

Anyone interested in donating to Gavin Thomas’ book drive may call him at 651-264-9739 or email him at to schedule a drop off.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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