Newark Charter School senior Sreeya Pittala noticed how her phone drew her away from one of her favorite activities, reading. After rediscovering her love of books during the pandemic, Pittala began working with two friends to create Just One More Chapter, an organization that encourages other students to read.
‘I felt like more people just needed to experience reading. It helped me so much through quarantine,” Pittala said.
Reading is often associated with a nerdy niche or school assignments, Pittala said, and her organization hopes to show every student that there is a book out there for them. Just One More Chapter also promotes culturally diverse literature, showcasing Asian-American and Afghani literature on its Instagram page.
“We’ve been working toward creating resources to help people find a genre that they like. A lot of people see classics and get really scared because they are hard to understand,” Pittala said. “I think contemporary literature is more lighthearted.”
Pittala also started a chapter of Bring Change to Mind at her school to create a community for open discussion of mental illness. Bring Change To Mind’s work became even more vital during the pandemic, as students like Pittala struggled with loneliness and anxiety.
“I wanted students of all ages and backgrounds to leave each meeting with the confidence to stand up to the stigma around common mental health illnesses,” Pittala said.
A video by the national organization, Hopeful Futures, features Pittala discussing the impact of the pandemic.
“I would look forward to reading a book every day,” Pittala said. “Even though I didn’t look forward to doing much else, it helped to keep me together.”