By Aaron Blevins, 5/24/2012
Bancroft Middle Schoolers Recognized Creative Works
Kevin Almaraz’s book, “Big Game But No Gain”, showcases a nerdy, bullied middle-school student who joins the football team to make friends — only to discover that he’s really good on the gridiron.
The protagonist, Bob, begins to make friends and excel at football, and this all culminates with the upcoming high school championship game. But will the big stage bring out the best in Bob? Will his newfound friends stay true to him regardless?
The first-ever release from Almaraz was featured along with 16 other books on Monday, when Bancroft Middle School presented the work of its creative writing students. Through Youth Vision, a Beverly Hills nonprofit organization, the students became published authors, and their work is now available on Amazon.com.
“I wrote it, so I think it’s pretty good,” Almaraz said.
He said he began the project in September, and after edits, peer revisions and further classroom analysis, he finished “Big Game But No Gain” in March. While happy with the outcome, Almaraz isn’t sure if he’ll follow up with another novel in the future — though his fans are happy with the first release.
“I’m really, really excited,” said his mother, Yadira Duarte, through a bilingual friend.
At the beginning of the school year, Bancroft Middle School officials created four creative writing classes headed up by four English teachers, including Lyle Dickey and Cindy Murphy. Dickey suggested that the creative writing students strive to become published authors.
Murphy had her doubts, as the publishing process can be arduous with a lot of steps. The students answered, though, and 17 students completed their work in time for publishing.
“They are such hard workers,” Murphy said. “This is true publishing. You guys should be so proud of yourselves.”
Students were able to work with Youth Vision to provide input about their book covers. They also used technology such as Google Docs, enabling them to access their work anywhere.
“It was a great learning experience for me … and I know it was a wonderful experience for my students,” Murphy said.
Principal Maria Rico and Los Angeles Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer, 4th District, also praised the students and their newfound knowledge of the creative process. Zimmer gave the students certificates to honor their accomplishment.
“I’m very, very proud of you,” he said. “This is very, very special.”
Rico said the students on hand were the cream of the crop. She hoped that the students would recognize the commentary and help they received from adults throughout the process.
“This work is a labor of love,” Rico said. “I really hope you will continue to write and pursue your dreams.”
Michael Brae, chairman of Youth Vision, said the 17 program graduates completed a “monumental task.” The books they completed covered several genres, including fiction, recipes and autobiographies, and were of high quality, he said.
“Their creativity is endless,” Brae added.
Students who published books included Tiffany Minott, Monica Facelo, Xiomara Gamez, Almaraz, Joshua Alvarez, Yoon-Hee Ko, Jennifer Samantha-Martinez, Amy Ramos, Junnun Ali, Marcus Medina, Dennise Zepeda, Belinda Garcia, Raven Smith, Jessica Fontillas, Jordan Romero, Marcela Tenorio and Gabriela Alvarado.
Minott’s parents, like several others in attendance, were beaming at the fact their child had become an author. Her book, titled “On Schedule”, is about a girl in middle school who is taking on life’s challenges.
“My baby did a book!” her mother, Delores, exclaimed.
Both Delores and Minott’s father, Edgar Diaz, said they were extremely proud and hoped the book would help Minott overcome her shyness. Minott said the publishing process was a lot of hard work.
“We knew she could accomplish this,” Diaz said.
For some, putting their words on paper helped release pent-up stress and anger, as well as overcome shyness. Smith, the daughter of Youth Vision co-founder Veda Smith, wrote “The Journey”, which describes her challenging upbringing, her lupus diagnosis and the resulting chemotherapy.
“I feel a lot better now,” Raven Smith said about publicizing her struggles. “I can be more open about things.”
Students did not have to pay to have their books published, as their works were sponsored through Youth Vision. With Chase Bank as a major sponsor, Youth Vision also supplied an avenue for the students to set up free banking accounts to protect the money they make from their work. The students’ books are available at Amazon.com, booksamillion.com and barnesandnoble.com. For more information, visit www.youthvisioninc.org.