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May 8, 2013

Local students pen their own book

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Local students pen their own book
Great Oaks Academy third-grade teacher Christina Nortley, left, gets her copy of “Glory To The End, Young Men Finding Reason When Life Doesn’t Rhyme” by eighth-grader Isaiah Gathings, 14, right, who resides in Eastpointe.

WARREN — Great Oaks Academy eighth-grader Mike Mercier lives with the loss of his sister every day.

“She’s always in my heart,” Mercier said.

Mercier’s sister, Megan Rose, would have been two years older than her brother, but due to heart complications, she was stillborn.

Mercier talks about the loss in the new book “Glory To The End, Young Men Finding Reason When Life Doesn’t Rhyme.” He is one of several Great Oaks Academy students to share personal stories in the new manuscript. The chapters focus on various topics, including failure, bullying and coming of age.

The book contains reflections of individual challenges that could have stopped the young authors from being successful in life and how each overcame the challenge. The writers are in the school’s Men Eliminating Negativity group, which strives to keep a positive attitude each day. Performing community service projects throughout the year also is a big part of the group.

As for being a published author, “I bet she would think I’m pretty cool,” Mercier said of his late sister. “I think she would be happy for me.”

On May 1, the authors unveiled the new book during an assembly held with families and teachers in attendance. A few students kicked off the event by briefly sharing their personal stories with the crowd. Then it was time to autograph “Glory” for their fans.

The M.E.N. group has existed for a few years, and this is the group’s fourth published manuscript. Ricky Fountain, the charter school’s principal, said of all the books, “This is probably the most intimate.” Fountain also has a chapter in the book.

“Congratulations. I’m impressed. I am so proud of you,” art teacher Laura Schnurstein told eighth-grader Dwight Holsey as he autographed a copy for her.

“It feels really good,” Holsey admitted.

“I love how they can hop on Amazon.com and see that they’re published,” Schnurstein said. “I love how well they spoke about themselves.”

“My chapter was about being separated from my mom for a long time when she was in the hospital,” seventh-grader Joshua Spencer revealed. “It was on and off. One time, it was a month. The second time, it was a week.”

Spencer visited his mother, pregnant at the time, every day. 

“Her blood cells (weren’t) working and it was making her look pale,” said Spencer, who worried constantly about his mother. Doctors were able to determine the problem, and her health has improved. “She’s on medication.”

“My mom’s health issues are better because our family stuck together,” Spencer wrote in the book. “She has four kids and is a great mom and wife.”

Spencer was “fascinated” when he saw “Glory To The End, Young Men Finding Reason When Life Doesn’t Rhyme” in print.

“I like the front cover, and I’m in the first chapter,” he said.

In his story, seventh-grader Jaylen Powell focused on the separation he endured when he and his sister stayed with their grandparents in Florida so his mother could finish college in Michigan. The arrangement saved the family money. He really missed his parents, but he said, “I just tried to stick it out.” He wants others to know that “it might be difficult to leave their family. Just try to stick it through.”

Eighth-grader Andrew Thatcher opened his heart about his parents’ divorce. He also said people have to fail in life.

“You can’t just win all the time,” he said.

Another chapter of the book features a story from eighth-grader Isaiah Gathings. Readers will learn about his accomplishments in Soo Do Thai.

“I have a second degree black belt in martial arts,” said Gathings. He took up marital arts at age 3 and was heavily influenced by his parents.

“My parents did karate competitions. They got trophies,” Gathings said. “I wanted the trophies.”

So he soon began competing, excelling and earning stripes. But then there were times when things didn’t go so well, shaking his confidence.

“I was kind of upset,” he said. “Losing became a habit to me a little bit.”

But Gathings kept practicing and eventually got back on his feet. This is his first year in M.E.N.

“I wish I would have joined in sixth grade,” he said. “It’s really, really fun. It keeps you on your toes.”

Watching his older sister, Chelsi, leave for college was hard on seventh-grader Darius Modest.

“She helped me do a lot of things when I was younger. All of that helped me when I was older,” he said. “She taught me how to make my bed, clean my room, pack lunches.”

Modest had to adjust to his sister’s absence, and it was the ideal story to share in the M.E.N. book.

“I think I did a good job,” he said.

Keon Henderson, Khalil Ali, Keenan Penn, Nathan Bates and Jordan Shaw are the other student authors. Staff members Francois Fajou and Darren Terry also are in the book.

The books cost $10 each, and Fountain said all proceeds benefit the school’s scholarship fund. One-hundred books were sold last Wednesday. To order your copy, visit www.amazon.com.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.