HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A former Spring ISD student is donating a special outdoor library on the campus of Northgate Crossing Elementary School.
Li Lau dedicated his "Reading Without Walls" project to the campus on Oct. 9 as a part of his Eagle Scout service project.
His special connection to Northgate Crossing began years ago when he and his family arrived in the Houston area from Malaysia.
As a former ESL kindergarten student, Lau says he wanted to give back to the campus to give thanks to the school and community who poured so much into him as a young child.
"The goal of my project was to create an opportunity for me, my community and those who attended Northgate Crossing with me to give back to our community and teachers," said Lau, who worked alongside his former Northgate Crossing librarian, Mary Sneed; Principal Kristi Brown; and the Spring ISD Board of Trustees to make the project happen. "I was the first batch of students from kindergarten to fifth grade to finish all the way through Northgate, so I felt that was really special to me. I had to give something back, especially to Mrs. Sneed, who got me past my language barrier and sparked my interest in reading and literature."
Although the coronavirus pandemic pushed the project back, the current high school senior was able to complete the outdoor library, which features several handmade benches where students and community members can socially distance and utilize the space during the pandemic, and for many years to come.
"Mrs. Sneed mentioned that I could build either library shelves for books, or I could do something outdoors - anything I had more experience in and expand it more," said Lau.
Sneed, who recently retired from Spring ISD after 40 years of service, says she vividly remembers Lau as her student and helped him develop the concept of having students read books beyond the library space.
"It was very touching because when he decided to do his Eagle Scout project, he contacted me and asked if there was something he could do to honor the library," said Sneed. "When he was here as a student, that was a very special place for him. I'm very honored and it makes me tear up every time I think about how he wanted to do something that would honor the library as well as me."
While currently completing his senior year in Klein ISD, Lau says Spring ISD will always be home for him and his family.
"I was ESL all of elementary school and part of middle school," said Lau. "Now, I'm in high school in an IB (International Baccalaureate) program and taking on new challenges every day."
Brown says reading doesn't just happen in the schools, but can also be done outside of the regular learning environment. She says Lau recognizes the importance of partnerships and reaffirms the community within Spring ISD.
"Hopefully, this project will encourage kids to want to read, and maybe those readers who are struggling will feel more confident about their reading outside of those school walls," said Brown. "Li is a great example of what hard work can do as a second-language learner, what tenacity is, and an example of giving back. He's a phenomenal, amazing young man."