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Seven Anne Arundel County youth collaborate to write new book

Andrea Blackstone | 2/27/2015, 11:30 a.m.
Seven girls from Pumphrey and the Glen Burnie area, who are members of the Dream Girls Youth Ministry at St. ...
Reverend Jason Jordan-Griffin is the pastor of St. John United Methodist Church in Pumphrey, Maryland where 14 girls are mentored through the Dream Girls Youth Ministry. Seven members co-authored a new book called “Angel Voices.” A book signing will be held at the church on March 7, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. to celebrate their achievement. (Photo: Courtesy of Dream Girls Youth Ministry)

Seven girls from Pumphrey and the Glen Burnie area, who are members of the Dream Girls Youth Ministry at St. John United Methodist Church, collaborated to write a new book called “Angel Voices,” which was released February 4, 2015.

Over the course of three Saturdays, Armani Jackson, Shamira Miles, Camille Sewell, Roshawnna Brinkley, Raven Gaither, Chyianne Raymond and Jada Raymond worked with local author Feleshia R. Thomas to write the 33-page book.

The collaborative effort ties into the purpose of the Dream Girls Youth Ministry. It was established under the direction of Gloria Jean Smith, Jackie Middleton, Carolyn McCutcheon, Lucille McDowell, Pam Jones and Stephany Cotton. Smith spearheaded the group that works to mentor 14 girls ranging from eight to 13 years of age. Women who mentor female students encourage them to follow their dreams. Since 2012, members have gained leadership skills, worked on building self-esteem, improved goal-setting abilities and etiquette lessons. Sewing and cooking lessons have been on their agenda, along with tea parties. Some activity ideas are suggested by youth in Dream Girls Youth Ministry. However, it was Smith’s idea to write “Angel Voices.”

“She [Jean Smith] said it would be nice if they wrote a book. She met Feleshia Thomas and she was talking to Feleshia about it. Feleshia said that she has a little publishing company and that’s how it originated,” Middleton said. “All seven of the girls are on the cover. That is another exciting thing.”

Thomas introduced topics in the book. Smith remarked that many of the girls who participated in the project are introverts. The activity prompted them to express themselves and evaluate their opinions and values.

“Outside of the fun of doing it, I think it gives them an identity, because it is their book. We talked to principal, Kathryn Fieldhouse. She is going to put the book in the library at Brooklyn Park Elementary School. They seem to be excited,” Middleton said.

Shamira, a sixth grader who attends Brooklyn Park Middle School, is a co-author of “Angel Voices.”

“The book is about interviews with seven youth between eight and 13 about subjects like bullying, rap music and what makes kids happy,” Shamira said.

Camille, 10, also attends Brooklyn Park Elementary School. She agreed to participate in writing the book after Smith asked her to become involved.

“This book is designed for everyone who enjoys reading about young people and what they think about,” Camille said, “It feels good [to be an author] and it was a great experience, because it allowed me to write about a lot of important things in the lives of young people.”

Middleton says that she has observed that Dream Girls Youth members are transforming from little girls into young ladies. Through their book project, youth reportedly improved their ability to communicate with adults.

“I think that adults can learn from this book, because we talked about some subjects which are important in our lives, and the lives of other girls our ages. One of the topics was ‘Sometimes I feel like.’ My answer was I feel like I want my mom to take me out and do things and go places, instead of staying home and relaxing or going to my room. I would like us to do more things together,” said 12-year-old Roshawnna.

The authors of “Angel Voices” hope to inspire others to read. Their project also serves as a reminder of the importance of literacy.

“Reading is important, because if you can’t read, it is hard to do anything. Sometimes reading can take you places that you have never gone, and let you read about things that you will probably never do. For instance, fly to the moon. If you can't read, you can't function too well. And as you get older, it will be even harder,” Shamira said.

A book signing will be held at St. John United Methodist Church, located at 6019 Belle Grove Road in Baltimore on March 7, 2015 at 4:30 p.m. The event will be open to the public. For more information, call Jackie Middleton at 410-370-3683 or Jean Smith at 443-433-8192.