Accomplished writers raced around Tidewater Park Elementary School this week, eagerly signing their new book.
These weren't ordinary authors, though. They were young children.
Their book is 100 Voices for 100 Years, the latest work from Catapult Press, the publishing arm of Norfolk Academy's Literacy Fellows. It celebrates the Boys & Girls Club of Southeast Virginia, which turned 100 this year.
As part of the Batten Leadership Program, Literacy Fellows strive to advance literacy as a way to break cycles of poverty. Students collaborate with outside organizations, including the Tidewater Park unit of the Boys & Girls Club, which is on East Brambleton Avenue in Norfolk.
For this book, they interviewed many sources who have benefited from the club. That included successful community leaders like Vince Mastracco, a partner at Kaufman & Canoles, P.C.
“I learned a lot about leadership from the Boys' Club," Mastracco wrote. “I learned that leaders listen very carefully to everyone around them, and they learn the lessons that people teach by example."
Students also sent questions for dozens of young children who are currently enjoying its resources. A national organization, the club's mission is to enable young people - especially those most in need - to reach their full potential and become productive and caring citizens.
At the book launch on Tuesday, some of those children spoke about the club's virtues. Passion, an eighth grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Suffolk, said the club has for years helped her talk out problems and become a leader.
“The Boys and Girls Club is a good opportunity for kids," Passion said.
Mya, a 7-year-old girl, attends the Rosemont unit in Virginia Beach. She wrote in the book that her spirits life when she walks into the club because she gets to see its encouraging staff.
“If it was the only place in the world, I would be happy," Mya told the Tidewater Park audience.
Literacy Fellows were at the celebration, sharing time with the children and cheering them on as they read. One was Avery Munn '20, who volunteers at the club every Tuesday afternoon, helping with homework, playing games, and just bonding with the youngsters.
“It's so much fun to connect with them," Avery said.
Also there Tuesday was Juliet Lancey '20. Fellows spent many hours interviewing and editing to put the book together, but she gave credit to the children who answered their questions.
“It's really special to be able to showcase their voices," Juliet said.
During the celebration, Literacy Fellows Director David Kidd spoke about the impact the club has had over the years. Dr. Kidd wrote the afterword for the book, crediting his students and thanking the staff at the club and the young members who contributed.
He also made a request. The book includes 99 voices. The 100th awaits.
“We need more. We need your engagement, your vision, your energy, and your voice," Dr. Kidd wrote.
He made a similar request Tuesday. The children were listening. Moments later, some who weren't in the book were running after him.
They wanted to help write the next one.