Empowerment through education: Through Camp Verde’s Summer Reading Program, 9-year-old raises $225 to help girls go to school

Kiena Jimenez, 9, celebrates the end of the Camp Verde library’s Summer Reading Program by buying a few books. Kiena raised $225 for Heifer International’s Schooling for Girls program. VVN/Bill Helm

Kiena Jimenez, 9, celebrates the end of the Camp Verde library’s Summer Reading Program by buying a few books. Kiena raised $225 for Heifer International’s Schooling for Girls program. VVN/Bill Helm

CAMP VERDE – Kiena Jimenez learned a little something about empowerment this summer.

And the 9-year-old started out the summer thinking it was only about books.

In close to 60 hours of reading, the Camp Verde resident read a lot of Garfield books, “more than we can count,” she said.

Garfield is a new discovery, her mother Aleatha Jimenez said, “a couple of weeks ago.”

But it wasn’t just about reading books for Kiena. For her, Camp Verde’s Summer Reading Program was more than books, and it was more than the fact that libraries rock.

It was about empowerment – the empowerment of education.

Through a program through Heifer International called Read to Feed, Kiena drummed up $225 in sponsors for her reading. This means that she raised money by reading stories about an orange cat.

“They were generous,” she said of her contributors.

According to the brochure, girls make up “54 percent of the children who do not attend elementary school.”

Which is why Schooling for Girls: Education Empowerment exists.

Kiena goal was to raise $40. Though she blew by that figure and then some, Kiena said she “should raise more money for girls to go to school.”

By nature, Kiena is “really shy,” her mother said.

“For her to talk with people she’d never met, to present to them the opportunity to contribute, for me this is enormous,” Aleatha Jimenez said. “She gave a voice to those little girls whose voices we cannot hear.”

Nadia Torabi, the library’s Youth Services Librarian, said that Read to Feed “opened up Kiena’s mind.”

“She was always so shy, so meek,” Torabi said. “For her to go on her own, to raise money for education for girls, that’s amazing.”

Considering the collective minutes read this year by Camp Verde’s Summer Reading Program participants was about 33,000, Kiena alone read more than 10 percent of the total.

And she thanked the library’s director for the opportunity to contribute to a good cause.

“She thanked me because I sponsored all the kids,” said Kathy Hellman, director of the Camp Verde Community Library. “But she was the only one who thanked me.”

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