At-risk kids, life skills and reading.
The St. Augustine Trilogy – aiming for at-risk young people, using the paranormal, the historical and science fiction:
My young adult series attracts a variety of readers, a lot of teens of course, and many adults in their twenties and thirties. And in that overall group, as I had hoped, are often a lot young people who live troubled lives.
You see, I’m a former secondary school educator who spent the last ten years of my educational career working full-time with at-risk kids. I worked for Orange County Public Schools which covers the Orlando area of Central Florida.
In that capacity, if I wasn’t setting up and monitoring programs from the district level, I was actually in schools working directly with students and their families.
Drug/alcohol use, suicide attempts, child abuse and even murder were some of the issues I dealt with over years.
I tell you all this because, as a writer, I decided to make a main thread in my book series relate to personal development, decision-making, responsibility and overcoming overwhelming challenges.
The premise of The St. Augustine Trilogy then becomes this: You Create Your Own Reality.
So many of the kids I worked with felt they were stuck in the quicksands of life and had no capacity for self change to make thing better that I had to make one last attempt at reaching others like them.
To do that, I created the character of fifteen-year-old Jeff Golden who is a composite of all those young people I dealt with for so long. Jeff comes from a deeply dysfunctional home.
He is angry at the world and it is always somebody else’s fault for whatever happens to him.Using the first person, I have Jeff speak directly to the reader as if he is speaking with a friend.
And to make life even worse for Jeff, I inundate him with wild paranormal/science fiction-type occurrences.
Young adult readers eat that kind of stuff up and it gives me a chance to really put the pressure on the main character. For Jeff, it becomes change or be destroyed.
But to the rescue comes Lobo, the tough, mysterious, Native American Shaman. Oh, and Carla, Jeff’s girlfriend, who is smart, strong and has her head on straight.
It is through this joint guidance and modeling that Jeff learns to use the natural inner strengths that he never realized he possessed.
And at-risk kids who read my books GET IT! Whether reading my stories truly helps them or not, of course, I don’t know. But after visiting classrooms filled with such young people who read one of my books as a class project, I know the possibility exists.
They see Jeff’s gradual maturation and what he had to do to get to those stages of development. And for that I am extremely happy. If I have helped just one kid in this process it will have been well worth the effort.
As a side light, I put the trilogy’s location in America’s oldest and most haunted city, St. Augustine, Florida. This gives me the perfect setting for the spooky aspects of the series and allows the old history teacher in me to come out and play. What great fun to sneak in some lessons about the past and not meet resistance.
The Trilogy Used as Motivation and Skill Building in High School Reading Classes
What has been most interesting and gratifying is seeing high school reading teachers successfully use the trilogy books with those at-risk kids in their classrooms. Here are a couple of links to other post that will tell you all about that.
At-Risk Students and Reading (A full overview of the reading project)
Reading Motivation that Worked (The original high school reading project post)
Rewarding Reading Excellence in Schools (The trilogy used as a reward)
So there you have it. Below are the trailers for the two trilogy books already in print. And below that are some more links in order for you to fill in in any of the blanks:
Sliding Beneath the Surface
Stepping Off a Cliff