Nor­land stu­dents pub­lish book of ex­pe­ri­ences

South Florida Times - - FRONT PAGE - By CAMILLE AN­DER­SON

MIAMI GAR­DENS, Fla. – Nor­land Se­nior High School was buzzing on Tues­day, May 30. The me­dia trucks and cam­eras were vis­i­ble. Many vis­i­tors could be seen go­ing and com­ing.

Since the school is lo­cated in a high crime rid­den area of Miami Gar­dens, one might have thought an­other of­fense had been com­mit­ted and a round up for ques­tion­ing was about to en­sue. Un­for­tu­nately that's the typ­i­cal ex­pec­ta­tion, but for­tu­nately that day the real­ity was quite dif­fer­ent.

The me­dia and vis­i­tors present were in­vited to sup­port, pro­mote and par­tic­i­pate in a book sign­ing for “iRead, iThink, iWrite,” a com­pi­la­tion of sto­ries, nar­ra­tives and po­ems about their lives writ­ten by Nor­land stu­dents, now sopho­mores, who were part of the 'Fresh­man Ex­pe­ri­ence,’ an elec­tive at the school, dur­ing their ninth grade year.

Nor­land teacher Glenda Mo­ton taught the elec­tive and spoke reg­u­larly with her stu­dents. Stu­dents told Mo­ton sto­ries of gang vi­o­lence, de­pres­sion, death, drugs and dys­func­tion in the fam­ily unit.

The most poignant ob­ser­va­tion Mo­ton made, how­ever, was the run­ning theme of dreams de­ferred. Many of the stu­dents ex­pressed ut­ter de­spair and only saw a bleak fu­ture ahead for them if they made it to adult­hood.

Af­ter hear­ing the stigma stu­dents held of grow­ing up in Miami Gar­dens, also called "Mur­der Gar­dens" by some, Mo­ton was de­ter­mined to re-es­tab­lish some sem­blance of hope for a bright fu­ture for her stu­dents.

She as­signed stu­dents to read,“We Beat the Street,” the true sto­ries of Drs. Ge­orge W. Jenk­ins, Rameck Hunt and Samp­son Davis – a group of friends who grew up in poverty in a tough New Jersey neigh­bor­hood, but made a pact to get through high school, col­lege and med­i­cal school to­gether. Today they are all suc­cess­ful physi­cians and mo­ti­va­tional speak­ers.

Af­ter read­ing the book and not­ing how the stu­dents re­sponded to learn­ing about peo­ple who’d grown up in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances, but over­come the odds, Mo­ton pro­posed a project to stim­u­late the stu­dents’ cre­ative juices.

What if her stu­dents wrote their own sto­ries too? Af­ter read­ing the sto­ries, Mo­ton de­cided to pub­lish them. And she did, with the help of a grant and some of her own money. As a re­sult,“iRead, iThink, iWrite” was born.

One stu­dent, Asayah Rod­ney, wrote a poem called “Words Hurt.” Rod­ney, who em­i­grated from Ja­maica when she was in fifth grade, was of­ten bul­lied about how she looked.

“Tears poured down my face. I wanted to lay down and die. I felt so torn apart. Peo­ple have no idea what they say makes me mad,” Rod­ney wrote.

Other stu­dents spoke of is­sues like home­less­ness, los­ing a par­ent, etc. Most said it was hard to face some of the things they’ve gone through, but they hoped their sto­ries in­spired and en­cour­aged oth­ers.

This project shows there are ‘good’ things hap­pen­ing in Miami Gar­dens. There are many pos­i­tive sto­ries like this one that of­ten go un­told, in which teach­ers and stu­dents of Miami Dade County Pub­lic Schools are mak­ing re­mark­able ac­com­plish­ments.

There are teach­ers that work tire­lessly, of­ten by their own sweat equity, to pro­vide "out of the box" ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences for their stu­dents be­cause they know it stim­u­lates the young mind and fos­ters a fear­less out­look for a brighter fu­ture.

Mo­ton is one of them. She be­lieves ef­fec­tive ed­u­ca­tors ac­knowl­edge and ad­dress their stu­dents’ ex­pe­ri­ences.

“We ac­tu­ally talk about es­tab­lish­ing long range and short range goals, how to iden­tify col­leges … There are some self-es­teem is­sues, deal­ing with the death of a fam­ily mem­ber, be­ing bul­lied,” Mo­ton told WLRN in an in­ter­view. “You have to be able to iden­tify who you are, not take a back­seat to peo­ple judg­ing you. Be who you are, stand up on the in­side and be con­fi­dent. … You don’t have to be­come a vic­tim of your com­mu­nity, but you can be­come a suc­cess.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF INSTANIKE.COM

Nor­land stu­dents wrote sto­ries about their lives that are now pub­lished in the com­pi­la­tion book, "iRead, iThink, iWrite."

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