Ellen Mouchawar, committed volunteer librarian at San Francisco 49ers Academy, is hoping people will donate books this holiday season

by Linda Hubbard on December 12, 2014

Atherton resident Ellen Mouchawar remembers well the first time she looked at what was described as the “library” at the San Francisco 49ers Academy, a public school for 6th to 8th graders in East Palo Alto supported by a private, nonprofit agency. “It was a storage shed filled with junk,” she recalls, sitting in what is now a bright, airy and book-filled building on the school campus.

Volunteers participating in Menlo Park Presbyterian Church’s Compassion Weekend in partnership with the Ravenswood Education Foundation transformed the shed to a library over one weekend just under a decade ago. But one need remained — a librarian. It’s a role that Ellen assumed eight years ago as a volunteer, helped weekly, she’s quick to add, by her mother.

“The very first class of students I was involved with here are the same age as my son was [now in college],” she says. “I think that heightened my perception of the incredible opportunity gap between my son and the kids here. When he wanted a book, we’d go to Kepler’s and buy it. But for some of the kids here, this is their only access to books.”

Ellen is using the holiday season as reason to spread the word about donating a book to the library. “The students and teachers help me keep an ongoing Amazon wishlist of books they’d like to see in our collection,” she explains. “The expansion of the collection has become especially important with the adoption of Common Core.”

The list is available online at Amazon.com. Ellen has a couple of suggestions for selecting a book:

“By using one of the upper right drop-down menus, first sort the list by ‘Priority’. This will show you which books are most highly desired. Some titles, for example, are a missing book in a series.

“Also, go through the list with your child, and have them select a book they know and like. Regardless of its priority, if it’s on the list, it would be a wonderful addition to our library.

Donated books are delivered to Ellen’s house; the shipping address is automatically selected when you purchase from the wish list.

Even after eight years, Ellen remains both enthusiastic and committed to the Academy library and kids. “Most days I feel like I take more than I  give,” she says. “I leave here so inspired.”

Photo by Irene Searles; pictured with Ellen are (left to right) 8th graders Juan Mendoza, Rayshaun Jordan, Monrovia Burns and Gladys Monje

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