MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota eighth grader with a love for reading and a passion for helping children received a prestigious national award for her accomplishment. Maria Keller, 13, won the Jefferson Award for public service for her nonprofit Read Indeed.
She was honored in New York City earlier this month along with former Yankees player Mariano Rivera, actor Andrew Shue and Tom Brokaw.
“It was so cool, it was such an honor,” Keller said.
From the time Keller knew how to read her mother said she buried her head in books.
“I love books and how they kind of take you away from where you are,” Keller said.
At eight, a conversation with her mom sparked the idea for Keller’s nonprofit, Read Indeed, after she was told not all children have books of their own.
“That shocked me and I wanted to do something to change it,” Keller said.
She immediately organized a book drive and made a donation of a thousand books to a children’s shelter.
From there she told her parents she wanted to collect and donate a million books to kids in need by the time she was 18.
This past fall the Orono Middle School student reached her goal, five years early.
“It was awesome, it was amazing. I came home from school and my mom was like we just got over a million books,” Keller said.
Despite the attention and her accomplishments, Keller insists she’s a normal teenager who likes to shop and play Lacrosse.
“It’s her humility that sets her apart, cause she thinks she’s a regular kid and she is so extraordinary in so many ways,” said Pam Brinkhaus, Keller’s science teacher.
Brinkhaus said Keller is a remarkable person, and her humility showed as she preferred not to talk about herself but about the children and how they’ve impacted her.
“It’s just amazing…we get tons of thank you notes. We probably have hundreds and hundreds of thank you notes from kids all around the world. It’s just so cool to read them,” Keller said.
Keller’s new goal is to distribute books in every state in the country and in every country in the world.