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CCSD59 Alumnus, Illinois Deputy Majority Leader Become Inaugural Award Recipients

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From an early age, Daniel Salgado-Avarez has been drawn to libraries. He has never shied away from reading two or three books per day, because that is what his brain wants. 

That love of literature only grew during his time at Rupley Elementary and Grove Junior High. He became so ingratiated with what his local library had to offer that he began to recognize obstacles between his own classmates and access to the same library. 

Until recently, Illinois state law required that a library card shall be paid for either through property taxes or a separate fee. Libraries are unable to waive this fee for low income families, and while some services are still offered to residents who do not have a membership card, Salgado-Alvarez wanted to take the next step in helping connect community members with these resources. 

“I have been interested in this project and working to solve it for over four years,” he said. “It started with creating summer camps at the Oasis Mobile Home Park for junior high and elementary school students. I wanted them to have access to books, art, sports, and other activities during the summer.”

While he was eager to provide these resources in his hometown of Des Plaines, he still saw these summer opportunities as only a bandage. Before his graduation from Elk Grove High School in 2020, he wanted to make a true impact on his community. That spurred him and several classmates to create the concept behind the Card 4 Kids Act. The aim of the act would be to provide library cards to students living in unincorporated areas of Illinois. 

“I always loved our school’s library, and when I didn’t have that in the summer, I would honestly be bored. My whole purpose in fighting for this is so that kids can have that year-long access.”

After presenting the idea to District 214 Superintendent David Shuler and the Elk Grove Village Board, Salgado-Alvarez had a chance encounter with Illinois Deputy Majority Leader Laura Murphy. Sen. Murphy visited EGHS last year to discuss local issues with students. Salgado-Alvarez was among those in attendance and presented the idea for the act along with his classmates. He stressed the opportunity to make a real difference in the community, and Murphy agreed. 

Following previous efforts to provide library resources to unincorporated areas in Cook County, Murphy was equally passionate about seeing Salgado-Alvarez’s vision become a reality. She was able to steward the bill to the Illinois General Assembly and eventually see it passed.

“If we can encourage students to read, and establish that love of learning that reading fosters, they become the problem solvers of the future,” she said. “It is our responsibility to contribute whatever tools we can for them to do that.”

Now, the Cards 4 Kids Act provides library access for about 1,200 students within CCSD59 and another 400 Elk Grove High School students alone. The story of this accomplishment gained traction in May and caught the attention of the CCSD59 Board of Education, and members sought a way to recognize Salgado-Alvarez and Sen. Murphy for their work.

That led to the creation of the CCSD59 Success for Life Award, which will be given annually to individuals making a significant contribution to the CCSD59 community through their time, actions, talents and dedication. Salgado-Alvarez and Sen. Murphy were in attendance at the board of education public hearing on Monday to become the inaugural recipients of the award. 

“We have already seen examples of the great things that (Daniel) can do,” said Sen. Murphy. “I know the future will be unlimited for him.”

Salgado-Alvarez, who is preparing for his first year at Harvard University, was grateful for the recognition. He plans to pursue an education in government and data science, where his affinity for reading will come in handy. Still, he is moved even further by the aid he has received in getting this legislation passed so that he could give back, not only to his hometown, but to students across the state. 

“It’s not just about books and the physical space but also the support, classes, and other activities within a library,” he said. “I am so thankful for the support of Senator Murphy. Without her help and the help of so many teachers within Elk Grove High School, I don’t think it would have been possible.”

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