Among the Groves: Lindsay Lives (2011)

Among the beautiful orange groves of Lindsay, California, immigrant workers labor all day, doing backbreaking work to make a living.  Their children often work alongside them, before and after school and on weekends, to help pay the rent. At night, the streets and groves are full of violence, drugs, alcohol, and gang activity. The stark poverty and the challenges it brings seem insurmountable.

The students at Lindsay High School are grateful for the beauty and saddened by the suffering that surrounds them. In this collection of powerful stories, they set out to describe their struggles and declare their dreams, unafraid to voice both the realities of their present and their hopes for a successful future.

Against the Odds: Visalia Voices (2010)

It’s not easy growing up in Visalia, California if you are in the wrong part of town. Gangs, violence, extreme poverty, all stand in the way of youth striving to succeed.  Life is tough and there doesn’t seem to be any way out for a lot of young people.

Students at Sequoia Continuation High School are the ones who couldn’t or didn’t succeed at the traditional high schools. They are the ones who are labeled failures, losers, troubled kids or delinquents. They are considered to be the ones with the least chance of succeeding.

In this collection of powerful stories, the students at Sequoia set out to prove those negative stereotypes wrong. They come together individually and as a community to set the record straight and make their voices heard. Engaging in participatory action research to not only name their circumstances but change them, they declare loud and clear that they do exist and they do have power to change their lives and fulfill their ambitions.

Beyond the Fields: Sanger Stories (2010)

When you drive by the fields in rural Sanger, it’s easy to miss what lies just beyond them. What seems to be a vast expanse of farmland and pasture hides the hopes and dreams, disappointments and struggles of the many very real young people who live there. The eighth graders at Fairmont School have put their voices together in an effort to reveal the lives beyond the fields. They give us  a vivid glimpse into their world and their ambition to become part of the larger world that lies just beyond their familiar fields.

Dreams Are for Others: Voices of the Children Left Behind (2007)

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Welcome to the world of East Palo Alto, California. It is a former murder capital and still a very dangerous place to live. On these pages, you will see high school students reflect on what it means to survive, go to school and try to build their own futures here. You will hear humorous voices, tragic voices, hopeful voices, and voices that rage against their circumstances. What emerges is the picture of a place where poverty, violence, drugs, gangs and broken families are the rule rather than the exception. Yet many of these young voices rise above their surroundings and look toward the future.  In a world where fathers often abandon their children, thugs and gangsters are role models, violence is an everyday occurrence, and drug money is a quick and dangerous way out of daily despair, there is also fierce family loyalty, love and tenderness, and the eternal hope that there is a better way.

What makes this collection even more triumphant is that students who were considered struggling readers produced the work. Despite the cruel and often shocking realities that fill these pages, the beautiful, eloquent voices that emerge here are an incredible cause for celebration. They are tangible proof that with the right motivation, every student can become an expressive writer.

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