By Michele Tallarita ’12
Erin D’Amelio ’13 (Mount Bethel, Pa.) spent much of her childhood nose deep in books.
Her love of the literary sprang from her mother, who read her and her brother chapters of the Harry Potter novels before bed. Entranced, D’Amelio couldn’t help but get hooked on books. It’s an addiction she’s certain has shaped her as a person and contributed to her success as a student.
“It’s just one of those things that I could not live without,” she says. “And being able to provide some of that same inspiration to others is something that I really want to do, and that would make me feel like I was giving back to the community in a really positive way.”
D’Amelio has, indeed, committed herself to getting books into the hands of people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. The English and French double major has played a major role in several groups and projects emphasizing literacy and community service.
She spent the summer interning with Judith’s Reading Room, a Bethlehem-based nonprofit that donates customized libraries to nursing homes, after-school programs, women’s shelters, and other groups.
In addition to putting together libraries, like the 300-volume collection she assembled for the Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, D’Amelio completed a number of tasks that went beyond the usual duties of the internship. She wrote a donor appeal letter that resulted in $1,500 in donations, conducted meetings with nonprofits, and created a brochure for the organization. Her efforts earned her the Judith’s Reading Room Student Volunteer Award, of which she is the first ever recipient.
D’Amelio’s literary labors with Judith’s Reading Room also extended to Lafayette’s campus. She, along with Kirby librarian Ana Ramirez Luhrs, orchestrated October’s Banned Books Week, a series of events that addressed the banning of books by schools, bookstores, and libraries across the country. One of these events was a flash mob in Skillman Library that has received national media attention from The Washington Post and the New York Daily News. Lafayette students, faculty, and staff read aloud from the American Library Association’s top banned books, such as To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, and even Harry Potter.
“It was a very exciting and busy week,” says D’Amelio. “There was a lot of participation in all of the events, which was just incredible.”
In addition to her work with Judith’s Reading Room, D’Amelio is a member of the Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education (LIME), a peer-mentoring program in which Lafayette students help Malagasy students to overcome the language barrier and other disadvantages so that they can pursue their dreams of receiving a college education at an American school.
As part of LIME, D’Amelio spent three weeks in Madagascar last January, teaching high school students about the college application process and helping them get more comfortable speaking English. D’Amelio continues to raise funds to pay for the students’ standardized tests. She also makes a point of staying in contact with them. She helps students with their application essays, fields questions they have about the process, and just talks with them.
“We still want to keep the connection that we made when got there, because it’s not just a once-and-done thing,” she says. “We’re in this for as long as they need us to be. I’m really committed to that.”
For D’Amelio, giving back to the community is extremely important.
“I just really feel that people should be given the opportunity to be on the same playing field,” she says, “and doing the LIME program and working with Judith’s Reading Room are ways to help people get to that place.”
She’s also involved in French Club, through which she teaches the language to students at the Easton Area Middle School, and the College Writing program.
She is applying to teaching-abroad programs for next year, and hopes to teach English in Malaysia.