Charlie Classics

Student donates $500 in books to high school library
Posted on 10/11/2012

When most teenagers get their hands on $1,500, they think about spending the money on the latest electronics, clothing or entertainment, but not one Poplar Bluff Senior High student.

Sophomore Ben Soeter thinks about his high school library.

A few weeks ago, Ben used $500 of his winnings from the Charlie Classics Reading Challenge to purchase about 25 new books for the library, a place that he frequents often.

“I thought it was such a wonderful gesture for a student to even think that way,” said retired Poplar Bluff Junior High teacher Linda Surber, Charlie Classics coordinator. “He’s a fine young man.”

Designing Women Foundation creator Linda Bloodworth-Thomason, a Poplar Bluff native, established the local reading program in 1989 with a simple mission to encourage junior and senior high students to read classic literature.

According to library clerk Regina Stratton, Ben stopped in the library at the end of last school year and asked if any of the school’s Charlie Classics needed to be replaced. Then he carefully went through the book collection to see which editions were more worn out than others.

Stratton said it was a first in her 12-year tenure, but a welcome act of kindness, as the book budget has been down over the past couple years due to state budget cuts.

Ben won the reading contest, sponsored by U.S. Bank, during his freshman year, having read over 25 approved books. His goal is to read at least 100 novels by the time he graduates, so he can win an academic scholarship through the local nonprofit, a guarantee once voluntary mentors determine all the books were read.

“I love reading,” said Ben, noting that his favorite title thus far was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” by Harriet Beecher Stowe. “Reading the books on the list has really improved my vocabulary and reading comprehension.”

When soccer season wraps up, Ben explained, he reads every night before going to sleep, one or two hours a day on the weekend and during his free time at school.

“I think that’s a challenge that he said, ‘Oh, I could do that,’ and took it to heart,” said Ben’s advanced English teacher Elissa Hogg, the Senior High communication arts department chair. “He’s kind of an intrinsically motivated young man. I’m sure his parents also motivate him, and part of their idea about what a student should do is, you know, ‘It’s your job to be a good student.’ But I don’t think he resents working hard. He’s totally engaged in learning, and just very unassuming.”

Two years ago Ben took five courses at the Summer Institute for the Gifted at Yale University in Connecticut. This past summer, he earned his first three college credits, completing a journalism course at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Next year, he plans to take some classes through Three Rivers College, even if the credit hours are not transferrable.

Journalism is only one of Ben’s interests, he pointed out. He would like to earn a combined medical/business degree, perhaps following in the footsteps of his parents, Drs. Yuli and Ben Soeter. The 15-year-old said he fancies USC, Washington University in St. Louis and Princeton University in New Jersey, but it is still too early in his secondary education to limit himself.

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Cutline: Poplar Bluff Senior High sophomore Ben Soeter recently took part of his award money from the Charlie Classics Reading Program and purchased new books for the school library.

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