Makenna Hart is a senior at Statesboro High School who is on the varsity track and volleyball teams. She’s hoping to attend college at her dream school, Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and plans to study biology, in preparation for medical school so that she can become an anesthesiologist.
Hart is dually-enrolled at Georgia Southern University, and is a straight-A student. She attributes much of her academic success to something she absolutely enjoys doing — and something that she’s passionate about sharing with others. That something, she says, is reading.
Hart began a community service project last fall called Mission of the Hart. She reads each week to preschool children at Kidovations Educational Experience in Statesboro. Each Tuesday and Thursday, Hart picks out a book that she feels the children will enjoy, and she reads to them.
“We love having Makenna come and read to the children,” said Wendy Williams, director at Kidovations. “She’s great with them.”
As she spent time at Kidovations, Hart says she noticed that although the children enjoyed reading, many of their books were damaged.
“So I was like, I think it may be a good idea to maybe collect some books to donate to them,” she said.
Hart is the daughter of Gleen Hart, senior associate athletic director at Georgia Southern, and Kim Hart, who works at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School. She talked to her parents about her idea, and they wholeheartedly agreed.
After talking to her school counselor, she found that the student body and staff at SHS got behind her idea quickly, as did her mom’s school. When it was all said and done, she’d collected about 100 books.
Hart is well aware of the benefits of reading. She credits her mother with instilling a love of reading in her, even before she was born.
“My mom was the one who really got me into reading. She read to me all the time when I was little. Even before I was born, she would read to me in the womb. That’s why I really love reading as much as I do,” she said.
When she reads to the children at Kidovations, Hart says she goes with her gut when she chooses books.
“I sometimes choose books about animals, so I read to them a ‘Curious George’ book. Recently I read to them a book about the founder of their Kidovations program. Around Christmas, I’ll read Christmas books. It’s kind of what I’m feeling at the time,” she said.
Hart is well aware of the influence she has over the children she’s reading to. As a mentor, she knows the children are watching what she says and does, and she takes that responsibility seriously. Being a mentor is something Hart takes to, well, heart.
“It’s extremely important to me. And I think reading is so important. I feel like it’s not stressed as much in school as it used to be, so that’s why I really wanted them to start young, getting a love for reading. I saw so many kids, and even people in my grade, who just hate reading. I feel like it’s because when they were younger, they didn’t have the resources, so they didn’t really get a love for it,” she said.
Hart even encourages her younger sister, Kennedi, to read more. Kennedi, who is in the seventh grade, is more artistic and focuses her energy on creating, and although she does enjoy reading, she isn’t as passionate about it as her big sister.
When she has some spare time, Hart said she enjoys spending time with her friends, and they like to attend basketball games. She enjoys horror films, loves listening to music, and loves to read horror books. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” written by Ransom Riggs, is a particular favorite, along with books by the late Toni Morrison.
The Harts are quite proud of their daughter and all that she’s accomplished.
“We’re very, very proud,” Gleen said. “She’s been reading forever. When we are traveling, most kids would be on their phones. But she’s in the back, just reading,” Gleen says, smiling.
Hart says that she plans to continue Mission of the Hart while she’s in college, and she wants to continue giving back to the community in this way throughout her life.
“I think it’s really helped me a lot in school. I’m a very visual person, so when I read stuff, I retain it. I think reading is what has helped me become successful in school,” she said. “It’s a great skill to have and I want to instill that in kids at a very young age.”