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Youth Authors Share Their Stories at Literacy and Community Initiative 2021 Reading Celebration

A student answers questions at the Literacy and Community Initiative 2021 Reading Celebration at NC State

Youth living in North Carolina had an opportunity to share their stories and amplify their voices during the Literacy and Community Initiative (LCI) 2021 Reading Celebration, held at the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation and streamed online on April 23.

LCI, which is directed by NC State College of Education Assistant Professor and Friday Institute Faculty Fellow Crystal Chen Lee, Ed.D., is a collaboration between the College of Education and the Friday Institute that partners with community-based organizations to examine and empower youth voices.

The April 23 event celebrated the release of the seventh book published through the Literacy and Community Initiative, Healing Starts with a Story. The book was authored by girls in the CORRAL Riding Academy, a nonprofit in Cary, North Carolina, that prepares adolescent girls in high-risk situations with skills, resources and opportunities through a holistic program of equine therapy and education.

“Two years ago, when we started our partnership with LCI, I got to see how the girls can advocate even before they graduate. Normally they graduate, they go off to college and they become amazing advocates in their communities for youth just like them,” said CORRAL Managing Director Lauren Clements. “But when LCI started to partner with us, we got to see the middle schoolers and the high schoolers learn how to write their own stories, how to become leaders in their communities and how to engage their peers and their families in this important work.”

The event also marked the introduction of writers from Refugee Hope Partners, a local nonprofit that aims to engage, equip and encourage refugee families that have settled in Raleigh by providing a variety of support programs, many of which are focused on education.

LCI launched a pilot program with a few girls at Refugee Hope Partners in 2021 with the goal of launching a formal partnership next year.

“It’s been a joy to see our students exploring their unique stories and working toward finding their unique voice as they work with the LCI team,” said Refugee Hope Partners Executive Director Michele Suffridge. “LCI provided structure and safety for students as they walked along beside each other processing past experiences and discovering their voice. It’s been a joy to see them press into the process, finding strength from within but also from each other.”

Below, you can watch as student-authors from both organizations share the stories they have written through their work with the Literacy and Community Initiative.

Warning: Some of these stories contain discussions of topics that may be considered sensitive to some. 

Vivian – CORRAL Riding Academy 

This student-author shared three of her published stories: “Mulan Reflections,” “Things That I’ve Learned” and “My Knight in Shining Armor.” During an emotional reading of her final piece, she shares the story of how she was bullied as a young child and has come to rely on her CORRAL horse, Bob, for emotional support.

Nia – CORRAL Riding Academy

Her first piece, “Things Learned,” shared a list of advice for herself and others. In her second piece, she changed the words to the song “Reflections” from the Disney movie Mulan to discuss her feelings about her adoption.

DJ – CORRAL Riding Academy

This student-author shared three of her authored stories including a sonnet entitled “My Loves,” a piece called “Alone” and a piece called “3 A.M. Memories,” which discussed her fond memories of taking care of her siblings.

Carson – CORRAL Riding Academy

Carson’s story, “The Storm Before the Peace,” describes her life living with severe anxiety and depression from the time she was a young child, the journey that led her to CORRAL, her feelings when she first arrived at the organization’s campus and met her horse and how the program has helped her.

Sa’Rye – CORRAL Riding Academy

This student-author’s piece, entitled “Some Things I’ve Learned That I Must Unlearn,” included a list of behaviors she hopes to abandon, including being passive, giving up too easily and being unable to accept help.

Tamana – Refugee Hope Partners (as read by research assistant Jaylah Stewart)

In “I Am Not Your Stereotypes,” the student-author discusses the stereotypes she has faced as a Muslim woman. The story, “Where I’m From,” discusses her experiences of living with fear, war and a lack of resources in her home country of Afghanistan.

Roshika – Refugee Hope Partners

In her piece, “Mulan’s Reflection,” this student-author changed the lyrics to the song to talk about her family’s expectations of her and her future. In the piece, “I Am Not Your Stereotype,” she discusses the stereotypes she has faced for being Asian, Nepali and a woman.

Arezo – Refugee Hope Partners (as read by LCI Intern Ellen Denning ‘22)

In “I Am Not Your Stereotype,” this student-author talks about her experiences as a Muslim, a woman and an Afgan. In “Where I’m From,” she discusses her experiences in her home country both with her supportive family and the bloodshed that has occurred there.

Safi – Refugee Hope Partners

In “I Am Not Your Stereotype,” she discusses her experiences with her grades, her physical appearance and living in a poor country, while her second piece, “Where I’m From,” shared her experiences living in Burundi. In her final piece, entitled “Memory,” she shares how her father recounted the story of the death of his mother, what it was like to witness fighting in her home country and the time a severe storm knocked her pregnant mother down.