McLouth youth wins volunteer award
Kalila Dalton on Saturday eagerly boarded a plane headed for Washington, D.C.
The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards named Kalila, a 15-year-old home-schooled student from McLouth, one of Kansas' youth volunteers of 2000. The nationwide program honors young people for volunteering.
The K-State Research and Extension 4-H of Leavenworth nominated Kalila for the award.
Kalila has reopened McLouth's library, sorted through remaining books, and collected and organized new donations. The whole family loves to read, Kalila said, but libraries have been out of the way.
"We've always had to go to Leavenworth or Lawrence to go to the library," she said.
Her mother, Brenda Dalton, said books are important to the family.
"There isn't a room in my house you can go without having a book in it," she said. "When our house burned down there were over 10,000 books in it."
She estimates that there are between three to four thousand replacement books in the house now.
The library project sprung from Kalila's desire to spread her love of learning and reading with the community.
She found out that there used to be a library in McLouth and that the space wasn't being used, she said. She jumped right in and the library has been open for about a year.
Other volunteers have helped make the library possible.
A retired librarian helped Kalila organize the books by the Dewey Decimal System. The McLouth High School shop class is building shelves for the library where Kalila will store the children's books. The McLouth Recreation Committee provides her with $200 a year, which she uses mainly to buy basic supplies, she said. Kalila works from donations to stock the library.
"She's replaced almost all the books in the library," Brenda Dalton said.
Some of the old books she's kept.
"We have all the books Churchill ever wrote. I keep meaning to read them," Kalila said.
Next to the library, the storeroom is piled to the ceiling with precariously balanced boxes of donations she hasn't had time to sort through yet.
Kalila started a summer reading program for children that offers prizes for reading. She hopes to get local children excited about coming to the library, she said.
For the youngest children, she said, she has planned a Saturday morning reading time when adults will read stories to them. Every other Saturday, she and her mother will begin tutoring children in kindergarten through third grade in reading. They hope to expand to all age groups.
Both Kalila and Brenda Dalton said they agree that reading skills are crucial to later academic success.
"If you teach young children a love of reading, that's something that will stay with them their whole lives," Brenda Dalton said.
Kalila knows. She has been home-schooled since kindergarten when her family realized she was allergic to many cleaning products used in the school, Brenda Dalton said. But Kalila also was frustrated with school because she didn't feel challenged.
"We brought her home and got her the curriculum, and she was through the curriculum in two weeks," Brenda Dalton said. "We had already worked with phonics."
Now Kalila's education is a family collaboration. She has four older siblings who were not home-schooled. Her father, Dan Dalton, a social worker for the state of Kansas in Leavenworth, teaches science and math.
Her mother teaches English and history.
But the family has never bothered with a traditional school structure, Brenda Dalton said.
"We're a lot more informal about things," she said.
Though she's only 15, Kalila said she already took the SAT last year.
"It was eerie being in a high school," she said of her test-taking experience.
Because Kalila has been able to work at her own pace she already has the academic credits of a high school senior, Brenda Dalton said. Next fall she will begin classes at a community college, but will wait until she is 18 to enter a university at the advice of her mother, Kalila said. Her membership in 4-H has played an important role in her education, Kalila said. Currently she is in the Goat Club, Shooting Supports, Sociology and Citizenship, Ceramics, Food and Nutrition and Photography, she said. This, she said, is after she cut back.
She said she maintains a herd of 43 goats on the family's country property.
"I'm going to thin down my herd a little because I'm going to community college in the fall," she said.
Raising goats was also based in Kalila's health needs.
"We started raising goats because I'm allergic to milk," she said.
Along with Kalila's trip to Washington, she recieved $1,000 and an engraved medallion.
Kalila said her all-expense-paid trip would be especially exciting because she had an interest in government and politics. The awards ceremony was Sunday at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.