Randolph-Macon students show off self-published books

Ethan Mayo, a freshman at Randolph-Macon Academy, wrote a book for students at the Key Center in Springfield showing a therapy dog, Nic, taking a tour of an airplane. Courtesy photo by Misti Walters/Randolph-Macon Academy

FRONT ROYAL — Between the end of Christmas break and the middle of March, Bernie Luan and his freshmen English peers at Randolph-Macon Academy designed and created their own books.

Luan, a history buff, honed in on the part of Dalian, China, where he grew up, telling about the Japanese and Russian control of the region and about his time living there.

On Tuesday, Luan and his peers presented their books to children in the Key Center, a special education center in Springfield, and to retired military officers in Falcon’s Landing in Potomac Falls.

The idea for the project stemmed from a conversation that Luan’s teacher, Kim Cramer, had with another staff member, Kris Campesi.

Campesi has a therapy dog named Nic, who she brings to Randolph-Macon’s dormitories to help comfort the students. Cramer said she wondered if Nic might be able to visit her freshmen classes during the first quarter to comfort her students.

“Sometimes, it’s a really big adjustment for freshmen to come here, and they’re living on their own for the first time, they’re away from home for the first time, and it can be really emotionally challenging,” Cramer said.

She hoped that Nic could help her students have an easier transition to dormitory life. But then, Campesi mentioned writing two books about Nic and the conversation began to change.

Cramer started asking Campesi how hard the books are to make; Campesi said that Cramer’s students would be able to make them.

Eventually, Cramer decided that she would have each of her 21 students create a book and present them at the two centers.

Some of the students wrote the book for the children at the Key Center, while others wrote for the retired veterans at Falcon’s Landing. Each student received two copies: a hardcover copy that each student kept and a paperback copy for the center.

The students’ projects varied greatly.

One student, A.J. Erenshey, created a comic book called “The Adventures of Flower Girl” that helps children learn their shapes. Two of the flight students, Ethan Mayo and Alex Tendler, designed books that took Nic onto an airplane.

In Mayo’s book, Nic took a tour of an airplane; in Tendler’s, Nic had to rush to an airplane because he was running late for his red-carpet appearance.

“We thought it would be cool to feature the flight program,” Mayo said.

The project gave the students some community service work but the experience was also educationally beneficial, Cramer said. The students, she explained, had to work on their writing and editing skills, as well as their research skills.

“If we looked at the standards of learning for ninth grade, I think this hits that ninth grade standards of learning curriculum in about nine or 10 different areas,” Cramer said. “So we’re developing the skills, but for them to be able to develop the skills using a tangible product that they come out with is I think an experience that they’ll hold onto and remember all their lives.”

And, Cramer said, the students were able to improve these skills while having the chance to be creative and do something they enjoyed.

“Some kids that struggle to see things through from beginning to end really navigated through this without realizing that they were doing work,” Cramer said. “It wasn’t real work; it was something that they were driving to complete.”