Volunteer State Community College recently held a graphic novel drive at Mountain Top Comics & Collectables to help the Charles Ralph Holland Memorial Library bolster its offerings for young adults. The drive was able to collect over 130 books with a retail value of almost $2,500.
Reading is one of the most important things kids can do to ensure that they will have academic success. These graphic novels, most of which feature superheroes, will hopefully inspire the youths of all ages in Jackson County to fall in love with reading.
This all came about a few months ago when Vice President of Economic Development and Regional Campuses Nick Bishop shifted the focus of the Upper Cumberland’s two campuses of Vol State- Livingston & Cookeville, to getting involved in the community again. Under his leadership, we are doing our best to put the community back into community college.
I (Shaun Scantland, Coordinator of Student Recruitment) was visiting the Library one day to see if they were willing to have a Vol State sign in their yard when I noticed they had a big Superman display. I asked the Director of the library, Melissa Gregory if they had a good selection of graphic novels and she said that they did not because previous directors had not seen the value in them. This stuck with me as I left because graphic novels are how I fell in love with reading.
I had recently attended a Jackson County Chamber event and attended the Highlands Steering Committee meeting where I had spoken to Mayor Randy Heady at both. Mayor Heady’s and the chamber’s passion for helping this area inspired me to want to follow his and the chamber’s lead and do something for my hometown.
I immediately knew I wanted to do something for the library because graphic novels and comic books were a big part of my childhood growing up in the Burristown area. I was an only child and there weren’t any neighborhood kids around. Growing up we didn’t have much money, but my parents would get me a comic book when they could. I would read them over and over again. They helped me escape to a whole new and exciting world in my mind. Because of these comic books I was no longer tethered to my modest single wide I was raised in, I was learning about accepting people as they are in my X-men comics, I learned that with great power comes great responsibility reading Spider-man, and I learned the dangerous difference between nationalism and patriotism in my Captain America comics, and I learned to hope reading my Superman comics as I watched an adopted boy from Smallville go on to be the world’s greatest hero.
I didn’t know exactly how I was going to help until a Vol State student, Anthony Rece, stopped by my office a few days later to chat. Anthony told me that he had recently taken over as a social media content creator for Mountain Top Comics & Collectables and that sparked the idea that eventually led to us collaborating on us hosting the graphic novel drive at the comic store and partnering on its promotion through Mountain Top Comics and Vol State’s social media accounts.
I then reached out to Vol State alumni and Jackson County High alumni, Emily Buckner, because she and I had recently caught up when we had bumped into each other at a TNPromise mentorship meeting at JCHS. I knew if she was willing to commute from Lebanon to her old high school to generously volunteer to help kids in her hometown with making the transition to Vol State from high school then she would jump at the chance to help her hometown with us.
Lastly, I reached out to my fantasy football league members. The 20 of us have used fantasy football to raise $4,600 in 4 seasons for local charities and nonprofits in the Upper Cumberland. Several league members including Tanner Cox, Mike Franklin, & Brian Norrod showed up and bought books at the store and then put them in the donation box.
On Saturday, July 8th we (Anthony, Emily, & me) set up at Mountain Top Comics & Collectables from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. We had over 20 people, including the store owner, Michael Hargis donate to the cause.
Director of the library Melissa Gregory said she would work with Vol State to make this an annual event and would reach out to other rural library directors to see how we can all work together to help kids find a passion for reading throughout the Upper Cumberland.