The following blog post and corresponding pictures were submitted by students who are concurrently involved in both the AICHS Journalism class and THE MJ PROJECT sponsored Digital Media program. Both students are high school seniors on track to graduate in June and pursue their passions. It is an honor for us to showcase their hard work and creativity on our blog.
A Guest Post by high school senior Vanesa M.
On Feb. 1, 2019, The MJ Project, a nonprofit organization that supports teenagers in traditional and digital literacy, gifted a personal classroom library to Animo Inglewood Charter High School. The library, housed in 11th grade English teacher, Romel Nusdorfer’s room, aims to inspire students to reach for a diverse collection of books that they can genuinely enjoy.
On Friday afternoon during the last class of the day, curious students waited outside of the classroom as Leslie Lipton, co-founder and treasurer of The MJ Project, filed the brand new books into an orderly row. Her eyes wandered excitedly from the bookcase to the doorway as students peeked into Room 403.
Eagerly preparing for her class, Nusdorfer adjusted the brand new shirt that wore “Be Kind,” across its front. Only a few minutes passed before the students took their seats while confusion and wonder settled into the classroom.
“MJ...Mary Jane Nelson...was my husband’s mother, and she was just the coolest person ever,” Lipton began.
When Lipton taught at Animo Inglewood Charter High School, she and and her husband, Tom Nelson, co-founder and president, provided books and encouraged students to seek out literature that interested them. They continue to honor Mary Jane Nelson by dedicating their resources to students and classrooms in need.
The MJ Project also sponsors the school’s Digital Media program, exposing students to film making and the world of television and media within their communities.
“We believe that all kids should be able to communicate and understand— not just books— but different forms of communication,” Lipton continued.
Throughout the class period, students began to select books like The Hate You Give, Homeless to Harvard and I am Legend. When Nusdorfer called the last row, furthest from the bookcase, students anxiously anticipated their book choices. Edgar, a junior, approached the bookshelf and pulled a new, polished copy of The Shining by Stephen King.
“I think it’s a really good idea to offer kids books...not everyone can have [them],” Edgar stated.
As the class period drew near its end, Nusdorfer admiringly glanced over to her beautiful, newly filled bookcase.
“It’s nice to see that [the students] will be able to check [books] out. There are multiple copies, and I think more kids will come back to [check them out],” Nusdorfer stated.
Special thanks to the teachers who put in the extra work to make this blog post happen, Ms. Johnson, Composition & Journalism Teacher, Ms. Violeta Reina, Digital Media Program Facilitator, and Ms. Nusdorfer, English Language Arts Teacher.
THE MJ PROJECT is excited to shine the student spotlight on Monse this month. We caught up with her recently, and she shared with us her story about how growing up in a small and troubled town resulted in her love of reading.
Tell us a little bit about yourself…
My name is Monserrat, but I go by Monse. I’m currently in my first semester at Fresno State for my BA in Graphic Design, and recently graduated from Reedley College with my Associates in Studio Arts with a certificate in Graphic Design. Art has always been my passion. No matter how hard times get, a blank paper and pencil always lead the way out. I can’t remember a moment where art and creativity haven’t ruled my life...which is how I found myself working as an English Tutor for the past two years at Reedley College. While I fell in love with reading, I found myself being pulled towards writing my own worlds. Next thing I knew, literature became a subject with which I was helping others fall in love. Although most wouldn't consider art and writing to be the same thing, to me, they both represent the possibility for creativity.
How did you come to love reading so much?
I was born in Guanajuato, Mexico and when I was seven years old, my family made the hard decision of moving to America in search of the American Dream and better education for us. Our journey brought us to a small town named New London where I lived for 14 years. In such a small town with two mini stores and one main street, there was not a lot that a teenager could do for fun. I wasn't allowed to go out because of the fear of gangs and drugs, so I turned to books for my escape.
Books became my personal portal to any universe. I was not stuck in a bad town but traveling the world, swimming with sirens and flying with dragons across the universe. Sadly, although I found the joy of reading, not everyone else my age did. I saw the impacts a bad town can have on young people. If it hadn’t been for my parents who were willing to buy me books when they could and take me to a public library in another city, I never would have found books that I love. Books that made someone that hated reading fall in love with them. It's not just about reading any book, is about finding the right ones. Books that make you want to read all night. I found that in fiction.
How did you connect with THE MJ PROJECT?
I knew that if there was another person like me who was looking for an escape from a bad place, there needed to be a library. Although New London had a bad reputation, I met a lot of people with big hearts and a strong determination to completely change the community. They were individuals whom I met when I was attending Kings River Elementary School; teachers who wanted a better community for their students.
They were changing New London for the better, so I became a part of their Library for London project. My love for reading forced shy 15-year-old me to get involved with the library project. During the time that I was involved with trying to get a small library open, I met a lot of amazing people that joined us in the cause. Among those amazing people that care about books as much as I do were the founders of THE MJ PROJECT.
What impact has THE MJ PROJECT had on you?
They were like angels bearing books upon me. They not only gave me all the books I had wanted to buy for years, but they’ve continued to supply me with books for the past 3 years! Every break from school that I have, I can expect to have a relaxing time with the books they so generously send my way. For a book-a-holic like me, that’s the greatest gift of all.
I think THE MJ PROJECT is so important for the same reason why I became involved with building a library in my community: somewhere out there, there is someone like me who wants to go flying with dragons, swimming with sirens, and traveling across the universe, and the only thing they need to go on all of those adventures is to open a book.
The MJ PROJECT Blog is written by students, teachers, and MJ Project team members seeking to keep our supportive community in the know with regards to our most recent projects, grants, and programs.