In The Hands Of Teenagers, The Pen Is Mightier Than The Sword

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Nightengale Press publishes HOW WE SEE THE WORLD, a book written by minority teens, exposes heart-rending views on Freedom, Family & Friends, Drugs, Religion, Terrorism and Violence, War & Peace, Love and Living with a Vision --- even when life is hard and the Future is uncertain.

The back cover of the book says it best: “These young people speak to the world with candor --- hoping to be heard. It is not always easy to stand near the flame of youth. It is sometimes easier to turn a deaf ear to the passion that spill from the hearts and minds of the young. But remember, we all are young but once, and in that moment every one of us wants to be heard, to have a voice, to make a mark and tell the world around us HOW WE SEE THE WORLD.“

"HOW WE SEE THE WORLD" is the work of 24 Waukegan High School students, who study in an urban school in a suburban setting north of Chicago and not far from the Wisconsin border. Waukegan High School is a large school of nearly 4,000 students representing a broad range of ethnic origins and economic levels. From honor students bound for the most prestigious colleges to newly arrived immigrants struggling to acquire English language skills, the student body communicates in mainstream American English and Ebonics peppered liberally with an eclectic mix of south of the border dialects, as well as Middle Eastern, Polynesian, Caribbean and Oriental accents.

"During the school year the celebration of these various cultures is a wonderful thing to see. Our high school students experience a reality that includes cultural diversity, which strengthens their understanding of the world in which they will live as adults," Superintendent Richard B. Olson writes in his forward. But the kids have a different view.

HOW WE SEE THE WORLD is an uncensored glimpse into the lives of teens living on the edge.

Through essay, short story and poetry, students chose their own means to express their experiences and concerns of living in today’s world. When given the chance to choose their topics and genre for expression, the students took on the tough topics: Freedom, Family & Friends, Drugs, Religion, Terrorism and Violence, War & Peace, Love and Living with a Vision. For most of these kids, every day brings a struggle of one kind or another, yet they jumped at the chance to tell it like it is. These kids will touch your heart and open your eyes to the strengths and concerns of youth in America.

In "The Bill of Rights" by Carolina Rodriguez contrasts the horrors of torture, jail and even death for protestors in her family's Mexico with her life in the United States and how she helped her mother earn citizenship. In "My Jihad," Mudasir Ali talks about the hardships he faces as an American Muslim. Brandon Pullen's poem on the ravages of drug addiction starts out, "Puff, puff, pass." And Kiauna Jones, now a freshman at Northwestern, writes in "Never In A Million Years" of her determination to overcome the stigma of unwed motherhood and succeed to bring her child a better life. The fictional "Crystal Diaz" is actually based on the life of Yvonne and Yvette Vasquez' own mother, who struggled against prejudice and overcame low self-esteem to succeed in life.

"Our students have wonderful thoughts and they're brave to say them in their own words, in their own book. I think teens from all over the country will find themselves reflected in these pages," said Valerie Connelly, a Waukegan High School French teacher who is also an author and publisher. “And parents and teachers should sit up and take notice of what these kids are trying to tell them, how they are already able to see things much more clearly than adults generally give them credit for.”

Waukegan High School, an "at risk" high school, benefits monetarily from the sale of this book.

"I knew that publishing a book of this kind would have the potential to truly show how creative and positive teens can be, and to help the school by producing a new revenue stream, one that is outside the tax burden and inside the hearts of the community our school serves," Ms. Connelly said. "Some of our kids are the first in their families to go to college. I didn't want to douse their enthusiasm with too much red ink. I wanted to keep their door wide open, and for them to say what they truly thought. I told the students I wasn't looking for Nobel Prize-winning literature. I was looking for heart. And that's what I got, along with some really good writing from the kids."

Mary Ann Parfitt of Hewitt Associates made the first purchase of 75 books at the Advisory Board meeting on September 15th. As one of the representatives from Hewitt, an international human resources firm in Lincolnshire, Illinois, Ms. Parfitt saw a purpose for the books one of the many Hewitt conferences. “We’ll give them a gifts to our members,” she said. Terry Zawacki of St. Dismas Catholic Church also purchased 15 of the books for his parish. He also invited the Mayor of Waukegan, Richard Hyde to the celebration of the students’ work and the kickoff for the sales of the book in the Hewitt Career Center last Wednesday, September 22nd. “We are hoping for many more purchases of this size from local businesses and organizations, and perhaps even some from farther away,” Ms. Connelly said. "Of course, it is on sale in the school bookstore."

Former Peace Corps Volunteer, foreign language teacher and independent publisher saw the chance to be a part of the solution to her students' frustrations and her school’s need for extra funding.

Ms. Connelly started Nightengale Press just over a year and a half ago and has already become a medium-sized publishing company. Because the Nightengale Press website opened its doors to the world via the Internet, there are authors from all over the world coming to her company for the revolutionary publishing services she offers through affiliation with the best in the high-tech POD industry: Lightning Source, Inc. (a subsidiary of Ingram Book Company) and BookSurge, a truly global service for color interior and photo-rich books. As well as working with R.R. Bowker and Ingram to market directly to booksellers and librarians, Nightengale Press has also benefited from its membership in the Publisher's Marketing Association, a co-operative group of 4,000 small and independent publishers.

Adults and teens alike can learn from the heartfelt and impassioned essays, stories and poems.

Go to to order HOW WE SEE THE WORLD. Encourage friends, family, co-workers and employers to order the book. Organizational, Corporate and Community orders encouraged. The book is also available on Bowker's and through the Nightengale Press Publisher's Homepages on http://www., as well as on Ingram's electronic iPage Ads starting October 4, 2004. Booksellers and librarians are encouraged to buy online, just as the Waukegan Public Library has already done.

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