Young, gifted and Black on display on St. Augustine High School
22nd April 2014 · 0 Comments
By Kelly Parker
As the month of April honored and recognized gifted poets across the county, a group of students at St. Augustine High School saw their selected writings go from a classroom assignment to a published collection of work.
New Purple Heart: Reflections and Poems by Young Purple Knights features student writings that focus on their faith, their family and their St. Augustine experience. The project is a collaborative effort between the Rev. R. Tony Ricard, Campus Minister of St. Augustine and co-founder of Two Knights Publishing Company and Chad Smith, English teacher at St. Augustine.
Fifty-one 6th- and 7th-graders hosted a book signing and release on March 26.
“This started out as a simple homework assignment where the students were asked to speak from their hearts and tell their story,” said Smith. “Then, Fr. Tony had the idea of publishing their work in order to show them that the possibilities are endless even when they think what they’re doing doesn’t matter.”
Smith states the project evolved from the class reading the book “You Don’t Even Know Me” by Sharon G. Flake.
“All students were receptive to the assignment because the book related to their personal, social, and academic lives,” Smith told The Louisiana Weekly. “This assignment allowed St. Augustine students develop personal and academic relationships with one another and when students were able to read each other’s work, this process allowed them to appreciate one another as a person, breaking stereotypes, and respect each other as academic writers.”
Seventh-grade student Tyler Wilson is proud of this accomplishment, while still a student. “Being a published author is an amazing achievement for a young man my age,” he says. “I am proud to be able to represent my parents, peers, and educational instructors as a published author.”
Smith hopes the book will help show some of the goals and aspirations of the students at St. Augustine, and in our communities.
“Many of our adults may think our young men are not ambitious, lack dreams or goals, and are in doubt about their personal future and life mission, “ he says. “We are also impressed with the number of young men who wrote inspirational words that could save a young man who could be on the brink of developing depression, a young man who is having difficulty expressing their feelings, or allow our young men to recognize that their work can inspire others and recognize commonalities.”
“The city of New Orleans (and everyone) needs to know what St. Augustine men are really about,” says Fr. Tony Ricard.
Marc A. Barnes, Jr. is excited to be a part of a new St. Aug tradition; that can inspire future writers.
“For me, the best part is all the accolades and the fact that I can pass it from generation to generation.”
The 7th-grader also plans to add the accomplishment to his college and job applications.
Smith believes the experience has not only opened new doors of opportunity for the students, but has also helped their confidence socially, and as writers.
“I feel that it is very important for young African-American men to express themselves intelligently when writing and share experiences, Smith told The Louisiana Weekly.
Student Eddie Davis IV agrees. “To know that you are a published author it escalates your confidence, and confidence is the key to success. I helped design the cover of A New Purple Heart and I revised the contents of the book to make it even more exceptional than it already was.”
According to Smith, the writing/publishing journey for St. Augustine students is just beginning.
“Our students will continue to write books because these young men have realized that writing is the art that can bring people together, help us to relate, and knock down barriers.”
Books can be purchased at St. Augustine High School for $20.00, and proceeds will go toward financial assistance for students; which has been the mission of Two Knights Publishing Company since its inception in 2004 by Fr. Tony Ricard and St. Augustine alum Chris A. Quest II.
This article originally published in the April 21, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.