Junior Wins National Volunteer Award

As a voracious reader, Sascha Pakravan ’22 was troubled by Hawai‘i’s low literacy rates, so he started a nonprofit, Words4, offering a collection of “read-aloud” videos for elementary school children. The Words4 website offers more than 75 videos featuring Pakravan and other students reading children’s story books and posing questions to encourage critical thinking. The free videos – created in partnership with Punahou alumnus Jamey Steiner ’04 of Honolulu Creative Media – have collectively been viewed more than 13,000 times since July.

Along with the read-alouds, Pakravan recruited 19 high school students from Punahou and McKinley High School to mentor young readers at Waikıkı Elementary School over Zoom. His future plans include organizing a book drive for understocked libraries and partnering with other organizations to expand Words4’s programs. “Literacy empowers people to learn, communicate and have a better future,” he said.

Pakravan’s endeavors recently received national recognition, with him being named Hawai‘i’s top high school youth volunteer of 2021 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, the country’s largest volunteer youth recognition program. As part of the award, which goes to a high school and middle school student from each of the 50 states, he received a $2,500 scholarship, which he plans to put back into his nonprofit. It also puts him into contention for the national award, which will be announced in May. Pakravan also was honored with a President’s Volunteer Service Award, awarded to volunteers who tackle some of our nation’s toughest challenges.

“I’m delighted to see my project making a real change,” said Pakravan, who worked on the project with Punahou’s Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship, Luke Center for Public Service and the Junior School Learning Commons. “I look forward to continuing to serve our community, and hopefully beyond.”

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