At only 17 years old, Josh Rayo-Solano is already a philanthropist. He gives back as a volunteer and a donor because he “wanted to do more for my favorite place in the world.”
Josh and his family moved a few times when he was young, and they settled in Charlotte when he was six.
But Josh didn’t feel settled at all. In a sometimes trembling voice, he recalls struggling to fit in at school. He was often alone – until he discovered the nearby Steele Creek Library location.
Josh and his sister visited that Library weekly, and he became a reader. “I first learned to speak and read in Spanish. Reading in English was harder for me than speaking,” he explains. “The first book I picked up was Green Eggs and Ham. I made up a story from the pictures, and just kept picture-reading until one day I was reading the words.” Books helped him escape his loneliness, and the Library was an oasis of stability through some difficult years. Josh slowly came to know and trust the staff.
Soon, he was ready to give back. “At first I just used the Library for reading and finding myself. But by 7th grade I wanted to do more. My friend was a volunteer, and I started too.” As part of the VolunTeen program, Josh helped lead programs for other kids and teens, and gained confidence and valuable work skills. “I found my place. I learned to open up and became more comfortable talking to people – in the Library and at school.”
Today, Josh is a high school senior and still volunteers at the Scaleybark location. “I’m as happy as I’ve ever been, and the Library played a huge role in helping me find myself. I love knowing there’s always a place for me, where I can be myself and indulge in reading comic books or even Green Eggs and Ham. It really means the world.”
Josh participates in Playing for Others, an organization that empowers teens through personal development, leadership training, service and the arts. He persuaded his PFO cohorts to invest in the Library Foundation.