Pleasanton Weekly

- December 7, 2012

Claire Williams

Rising Star

by Jeb Bing

If you've been to the Pleasanton Library over the past few years, you've likely seen Claire Williams there, helping young children build their reading skills. Passionate about reading and a very curious learner, Claire has a heart for service and is this year's winner of the Tri-Valley Heroes Rising Star award.

Claire was born in Pleasanton and is a member of a pioneer family. Her great-great grandparents immigrated to Pleasanton from Italy and Germany in the late 1800s. Being a 5th generation Pleasanton resident, Claire has a deep sense of commitment to her community.

Claire fell in love with reading in the third grade after taking part in a library program that had young patrons illustrate and write their own short story. In the sixth grade, she began working with Kid Power, the library's summer reading program, and she has also been a "book buddy." Working in the library for the past six summers, and volunteering more than 700 hours, she founded a program called "Read to a Teen," where students in grades 1-4 read to volunteer teenagers every Sunday to improve their reading skills.

"These young readers show up at the library and can read to a teen between 2 and 4 p.m.," Claire said.

The teen helps the young reader with reading skills and comprehension. With all the budget cuts in the schools it has been a great way for young readers to get more reading practice.

The teen doesn't read the story to the child, but instead encourages and engages with the child to help them with their reading comprehension.

Claire studied local literacy issues and related them to a government report stating that in low-income neighborhoods in the U.S., there is on average only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Linking the issues of literacy and poverty and knowing that some local children don't have books at home, Claire founded a book drive called "I Am Grateful I Can Read."

Last year she and other volunteers collected over 5,000 new books. The annual drive is in progress now and drop boxes are at all Pleasanton elementary and middle schools. The books will be collected on Dec. 14 and donated to Axis Community Health Center. Children coming in for a doctor's visit can take a book home instead of a sucker.

Not just a heart of gold, our Rising Star earned a Congressional Gold Award for service and was recognized by Congressman Jerry McNerney. In addition to her efforts with literacy, Claire served meals through the Tri-Valley's Open Heart Kitchen and helps annually with events for foster care children through Foster a Dream, a Bay Area organization. On Sunday, she is volunteering her time to help the Rotary Club of Pleasanton serve Christmas dinners to 275 seniors at the Pleasanton Senior Center.

Currently a senior at Amador Valley High School, Claire says that her work in helping children couldn't be done without the help of many volunteers and the Teen Librarian, Teresa Parham.

Claire encourages and inspires others to get involved and although they may not be 5th generation Pleasantonians, everyone's volunteer efforts help make our community a great place to live.

Hero FYI

* Claire Williams was chosen from more than 35,000 nominees nationwide for the Kohl's Department Stores' Kohl's Cares Scholarship Program earlier this year. She was one of more than 200 regional-level winners awarded $1,000 scholarship toward her post-secondary education.

* She was one of three students in the 11th Congressional District to be presented with the Congressional Gold Award by U.S. Rep. Jerry McNerney for her work in helping students in need of literacy training.

* She is responsible for a book drive now under way to benefit the Axis Community Health Pediatric unit. Donations of new books for ages 1 to 12 can be dropped off at school libraries through Dec. 14.

* She was a player on the Amador Valley High School girls varsity tennis team this year that won the James Logan Tennis Tournament for the first time ever. Earlier, these Lady Dons had defeated both Foothill and Monte Vista, two teams they've struggled against in the past.

* Last year at this time, she organized a holiday celebration for 131 Alameda County families, complete with gifts, Santa, elves and decorations, at the downtown Pleasanton Veterans Memorial Building. Claire also has volunteered to help foster care children in the past with the "Foster A Dream" program for her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

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