“Community. Books. You” provides help to first-generation students

The+program+was+started+by+two+undergraduate+Marquette+students

The program was started by two undergraduate Marquette students

At Marquette University, the undergraduate program for 2020-21 costs students $44,970, not including room and board, additional fees, and the cost of textbooks. Two students of Marquette created “Community. Books. YOU.”, which is a free textbook lending program for first-generation undergraduate students.

Community. Books. YOU. was founded by two Marquette undergraduate students, Wendy Perez and Julie Aleman. Both are first-generation students at Marquette and were able to relate to some of the struggles that first-generation students face when it comes to juggling college finances.

Perez, a sophomore in the College of Business, and Aleman, a sophomore in the College of Communication, developed a plan for an organization that would help students who couldn’t afford textbooks and other college expenses.

After developing the idea, Perez and Aleman together competed for funds from the college in order to afford the books they hoped to provide to students. They were given the Brewed Ideas Challenge and Dorm Fund and were able to kick off their business plan from there.

Perez used her marketing and entrepreneurship background to help create a business layout that includes two different customer segments, so they have two different processes that they follow. The first process deals with textbook donations.

“We put bins across campus such as in the Alumni Memorial Union, Raynor Library, 707 hub, and in some academic buildings so that students and faculty members can drop off their textbooks. We have a location in the lower level of Raynor Library that we use to store, catalog and organize the textbooks we get including donated textbooks,” Perez said.

The second process focuses on helping undergraduate students access textbooks for free through the lending program. The process starts with students reaching out to Community. Books. YOU. through their Instagram and requesting one book that they would like to lend.

“When we have the student’s textbook, we send them an email about pickup times and notify them to sign a textbook lending agreement in which they will return the textbook in the same condition by the return due date,” Perez said. “At the end of the semester, students return their textbook at the lower level of Raynor library in the time slots provided to them.”

The concept of Community. Books. YOU. was developed by Aleman.

“When I lived in Puerto Rico, I had a conversation with a college student that stated that many people would throw a lot of stuff away at the end of semesters, including textbooks. So, this gave me the idea of a program that reuses textbooks while helping students,” Aleman said.

Aleman brought her concept to the attention of Perez, who also was passionate about helping students have access to textbooks. Perez experienced dealing with the high costs of textbooks during her first semester they agreed to use their passions to start a plan that would help support their fellow students.

At Marquette University, about 22% of students are first-generation, and the university says that they are committed to helping these students through proper education.

Cameron Heiser, a sophomore in the College of Business Administration, is a first-generation college student. Heiser said that to him, being a first-generation college student means that you have to go through college with no immediate family member who has attended college and can offer personal experience. Heiser said that this led to him facing many struggles at college.

To find some sort of home on campus, Heiser joined Marquette University Student Government and is now the executive vice president. He said that through his position he learned about Community. Books. YOU., but said he wishes he was aware of its services sooner.

“I think this group is crucial to the first generation community here at Marquette,” Heiser said. “It provides a necessary resource because coming into college many first generation students do not actually know how much textbooks cost.”

The leaders of Community. Books. YOU. are optimistic for the future of the group and hope that more campus organizations learn about its purpose and services.

“Some goals for the future is to spread the word about the program more such as to every college, resident halls and professors. We also hope Community. Books. YOU. is more than a textbook lending program for first generation students by providing a safe, comfortable space, knowing that we are a resource and being able to inspire first generation students,” Perez said.

This story was written by Phoebe Goebel. She can be reached at phoebe.goebel@marquette.edu