HOMESTEAD (CBSMiami) – Anik Willig is a South Florida teenager who has made it her mission to mentor young children and help them read and in doing so, has taught them so much more.
Dozens of children anxiously wait for Willig’s weekly visit.
For the past four years, 17-year-old Anik Willig has been visiting the Chapman Partnership Homeless shelter in Homestead with her beautiful smile and books in hand.
“The first time I came here, I was in middle school with a group of friends. We were actually doing a service project at the shelter to put on a play for the kids. So the first time I actually interacted with them when was we were giving them scripts but while trying to read the scripts I realized they had difficulty reading,” recalled Willig, founder of H.E.R.O Homeless Empowerment Reading Opportunity.
That motivated her at the young age of 11 to give these children a gift that could not be taken away.
She builds their confidence by mentoring them and helping them to read.
“So I was inspired to create my own program. It’s called H.E.R.O. Homeless Empowerment Reading Opportunity,” said Willig.
Every Saturday, Anik and her group of heroes visit the shelter with boxes of books and the will to teach.
“That makes me very happy because she makes it her time to help kids,” said 8-year-old Briella Cueto.
“She used to help me when I was in 2nd grade and now I’m in 3rd grade,” said Cueto.
“In the beginning she barely knew her alphabet and now she’s reading and writing. It’s very rewarding to see,” said Willig of Cueto’s progress.
That makes Anik very proud because she is making a difference in the lives of not only Briella and all of the kids who are dealing with serious issues.
“I know they’re struggling with different things, but in this place, I guess they have an escape and especially books that can be so interesting and rewarding,” said Willig.
Not all heroes wear capes and Anik is definitely one of them.
“She makes me feel good she makes me have a better day then I used to have,” said Cueto.
Anik also gives them little incentives. For every 15 minutes they read, she gives each child a token and at the end of the hour, they use that token to buy toys she brings them.
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