Where Hope Begins: Teens Gain Strength Through Writing

By Dawn Raffel

An interesting thing happens when you take 14 troubled teens and help them write their stories: Slowly but surely, fear and despair are transformed into empowerment and hope.

It started when Marjie Bowker, the English teacher at Scriber Lake, an alternative high school for at-risk kids in Edmonds, WA, invited author Ingrid Ricks to come in and work with her students. Ricks had self-published  her own  coming-of-age memoir, Hippie Boy: A Girl’s Story, about overcoming a brutally painful adolescence. Bowker thought she could inspire her students, who had grappled with issues such as severe depression, drug abuse, and gang violence.

Ricks helped the kids put together and publish an anthology called We Are Absolutely Not Okay: Fourteen Stories by Teenagers Who Are Picking Up the Pieces. Despite the title, these young authors are not only well on their way to okay; they’re thriving. A former unwilling gang member  is now a 4.0 student and wants to go to college. A 17-year-old reports she’s now clean and sober and taking responsibility for her life.

The teenagers were overwhelmed by the warm local response to their book, and they hope their stories will empower others. All proceeds from sales will benefit programs at their high school.

More on the book, including a video, can be found on Upworthy.com. Warning: These narratives are gritty and sometimes graphic—but they are real journeys of courage and strength.

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