During the summer prior to 8th grade, Agha broke his leg while playing outside at a friend's house. Because he wasn't able to do much after that, Agha did what most teenagers would do in this situation; binge watch TV! One day, Agha came across a show called The HALO Effect where he saw that a teenager, Ray Mohler, started a non-profit organization called the Little St. Nick Foundation where he gave out gift bags to kids in the emergency room. Agha immediately got involved and founded the St. Louis chapter of the Little St. Nick Foundation after realizing that he wanted to create a better experience for kids in the emergency room. During the time it was active, Agha visited many hospitals across the St. Louis area and gave out over 500 toys and 1,000 gift bags to kids in the hospital.
After about 1 year of being involved with the Little St. Nick Foundation, Agha decided to start his own non-profit organization and that's when the Literacy Initiative was founded. The Literacy Initiative first started off as a book drive during the Spring of 2017 where Agha contacted local schools to host a book drive. Over 2,000 books were collected and donated to local organizations such as the Little Bit Foundation, Ready to Learn, and LifeWise. This past Spring, he prototyped the first version of the Books & Cookies (formerly known as Milk & Bookies) program in two schools, Airport Elementary and Vogt Elementary, both of which closed their doors at the end of this past school year. The program turned out to be a huge success which Agha used to shape the current Books & Cookies program.
Awards & Recognition
(2017) Show-Me Volunteerism Award - Honorable Mention
(2017) AFP Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy
Since Agha founded the organization in 2017, a lot has changed. The original goal was to provide every child in St. Louis with a book to read, but the goal has changed since then. Now, our goal is for students to build a healthy spirit, mind and body through programs that mentor, engage in sports and support reading. Our two main programs that allow us to achieve this goal are our Books & Cookies and Books & Basketball programs. Through these programs, students work with high school volunteers on icebreaker and reading activities. Students receive snacks during each meeting and a new book every other week. The Literacy Initiative currently has around 20 Books & Cookies and Books & Basketball clubs across the St. Louis, Missouri and Memphis, Tennessee areas.