One Pleasanton Elementary student is building a better world through his love of books and chess. RJ Lopez, son of Terrie and Roman Lopez, has spent the last couple of months outside his comfort zone working hard to pass from a Cub Scout to a Boy Scout. With that, he had to speak with complete strangers from local businesses about his project.
“He’s very to himself and more of a one on one type of person. He describes himself as being “critically shy,” so he doesn’t take well to socializing with a large group of people, especially strangers. This project was a huge step for him,” said his mother, Terrie.
In order to pass on to Boy Scouts, RJ had to complete a community service project. Terrie has always told her children they aren’t too young to earn. RJ and his younger brother Tony collect aluminum cans for their spending money, so RJ decided to center his project around recycling. However, he didn’t stop there. He has a desire to help younger kids who hate books, learn to love them.
“He didn’t understand how children did not enjoy reading or why not many people played chess. His project focused around that.”
With the money earned from recycling, RJ handed out books, chess and other board games to the students of PES to take home for the summer in April and on the last day of school.
“If we could all just look deep inside of these kids, we would see that every single kid has a good book or series they would love to have or read,” said RJ, meaning that if you could just put the right book in a kid’s hands, they would get hooked and keep reading.
Terrie explained that reading helps RJ cope with the chaos going on around him and thanks to the inspiration of his teachers, Ginger Hollis and Mary Zinda, he was able to accomplish his goal.
“I have never taught anyone quite like RJ. He’s very intelligent. I learned more from him than he did from me and I believe that any teacher who has him is going to feel that same way,” said Mrs. Hollis, RJ’s 5th grade teacher.
She noticed he needed extensive measures taken for him, especially during recess time.
“The atmosphere is unstructured and there’s just so much going on that he can’t handle it. And there are many others just like him. I thought, we need to find a way to accommodate to their needs like we do everyone else.”
When Mrs. Hollis noticed reading really helped RJ, she decided to apply for a grant to purchase books and carts that students could read before or after school, during recess and in the cafeteria to keep them occupied.
“I read this story about Words on Wheels which is a bus turned into a mobile library that would drive to neighborhoods that were too far from a library. It provided books, Internet access and many other resources for children and adults to enjoy. I thought, we need something like that here.”
Unfortunately, she did not get the grant, but her mom provided the funds for carts and books to be put in the cafeteria and around campus. RJ was inspired by her to do his own Cub Scout project and help children enjoy reading as much as he did. The same went for chess.
“His GT teacher, Mrs. Zinda taught his entire GT class how to play chess. RJ loved it and really excelled at it. It was all about logic and strategy, things that he loves,” said Terrie.
RJ had flyers and barrels set up at several businesses in the area to collect cans. He collected a total of 424 pounds of aluminum cans for his project. Multiple family, friends and local business owners even donated books and money in order for him to accomplish this goal.
“Thank you to all the nice, kind and friendly people who donated cans, books and more. And thank you to my mom, dad, brother, Mrs. Hollis and Mrs. Zinda for helping to inspire my project,” said RJ.
RJ’s would like to thank Joe’s Place, The Gypsy Moon Market, Marathon Oil, the Jourdanton Volunteer Fire Department, Cancun Restaurant in Jourdanton and David Del Bosquez from State Farm in Floresville for allowing RJ to set up donation stations at their businesses. Also to family, friends, the community, Dorothy Manning from Jourdanton Public Library, Elmendorf businesses and Brandi and Candi Burkett for donating books.
“I’m proud of his true desire to share his love of books and chess so others can enjoy them as well. Although he is timid, he is proud of this project to leave for the younger kids,” said Terrie.