R-5 High School students recount trauma, anxiety in book

Photo by Gretel Daugherty—R-5 High School students who participated in writing the book “Dare to Dream” autograph copies in a classroom at the school recently. From left are Kirsten Hunt, Kristen Verzani, Jenidy Clymer, Katie Prickett and Ethan Spencer. The student authors will have a book signing at Coffee Muggers, 644 Main St., from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Kristen Verzani doesn’t like to talk about her feelings, but writing them down comes easy.

Jenidy Clymer was told she wasn’t any good at writing, but she kept at it anyway.

After putting her 2-year-old son to bed at night, Kirsten Hunt would crack open a can of soda and pound away on her keyboard, writing stories into the early-morning hours.

As they have overcome obstacles that many teenagers don’t have to deal with, these R-5 High School students along with six of their peers published a book of their combined short stories and poetry.

Students will be selling and signing copies of their book, “Dare to Dream,” during a book signing at 1 p.m. Sunday at Coffee Muggers, 644 Main St.

“It’s kind of surreal because I’ve been writing for years,” Hunt said upon first seeing the book in print. “Seeing this book is like, ‘Oh my goodness.’ It really encourages me a lot.”

Last fall, students at the high school were invited to submit work for publication with the help of local author Sherry Ficklin and former R-5 student and author Carl Franklin. Using the name Writer’s Force, the group met weekly with R-5 student-teacher Emily Prescott to compose, edit and read aloud their stories and poetry.

It was while sharing the feelings and thoughts that they had protectively stashed away when the students came to realize they were more alike than they had thought.

In Verzani’s story “Love and Death,” the 18-year-old pays tribute to an ex-boyfriend who was shot to death. She puts the reader inside the head of a parent and a sister to describe how it might feel to have to identify the lifeless body of a loved one.

In another entry, Verzani’s poem titled “A Brother’s Pain” deals with her outrage and sense of loss after her brother was arrested and jailed at age 12.

“Wanting him home, Yet wanting him dead,” she penned. “Confused, lost, Hatred, anger, Sad, sorrow, Pain.”

Verzani waded through bouts of depression and as a 15-year-old was hospitalized after attempting suicide. Attending high school was not a priority until a friend protested.

Things are looking up, and now Verzani is working toward her GED in R-5’s School Without Walls program.

“A lot of what I’m feeling I don’t talk about unless I’m writing,” she said.

Since middle school, Jenidy Clymer, now 17, has taken to writing to delve into her feelings. Clymer now lives with her grandmother, and her poem “Drinkable Lies” is about her mother, “who used to drink a lot,” she said.

“Pain and anger come very last, as you get to the bottom of your glass,” Clymer wrote. “A pleasurable feeling that you have at first, then your heart just bursts.”

Clymer said she has dealt with depression, but “I don’t want to be depressed anymore,” she said.

Clymer said she enjoyed being a part of Writer’s Force because it helped her connect with other writers. Working to publish a book helped fuel her confidence in other ways. Her poem “Baby Doll” is featured in the online version of teen writing magazine Teen Ink, at Teenink.com.

“I never thought I’d be writing for a book,” she said. “It felt good to do that, like I had accomplished something.”

Some R-5 students said they would like to again work on a book writing project for the upcoming school year.

“Dare to Dream” is available as an ebook at Amazon.com and at barnesandnoble.com. The books also are available at Crystal Books & Gifts, 439 Main St., Grand Junction, at createspace.com/3571803, and at the Mesa County Library main branch, 530 Grand Ave. Proceeds from book sales go to R-5 High School.


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