Freshman students in a Benjamin Cardozo High School English class got a special visit from an author who they may not be able to write off from their memories.
Award-winning Queens author Paul Volponi, who is known for his novel “Black and White” about the racial disparities of the city’s justice system, taught the class for three sessions on March 9, 11 and 13.
The appearances coincided with the release of Volponi’s newest novel this week, called “Game Seven,” which is based on the story of a young Cuban baseball player’s dream to play in the MLB.
In his three-day residency at Cardozo, Volponi taught students writing skills through fun activities, such as using popular names like Peter Parker and Fred Flintstone to show how alliteration makes names more memorable. He also showed the youngsters how to add color and characterization to make dialogue more exciting.
“He is the first author that I have met, and I like him,” said freshman Mustak Azad. “He seemed pretty interesting and he made a really great impression on me.”
Volponi’s novel “Black and White” was the International Reading Association’s 2006 Young Adult Novel of the Year. He grew up in Queens and is a product of the public school system as a graduate of Aviation High School in Long Island City.
He has taught students for years, but mostly outside of New York, because the Department of Education (DOE) doesn’t “prioritize” bringing authors to teach kids in its budget as much as other states do, he said.
“I connect with kids all over the country and unfortunately I do more kids in Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio than I do in New York City,” Volponi said.
The program to have Volponi teach was funded through a grant that classroom veteran teacher Nancy Orens wrote and received from the DOE.
Besides writing tips, Volponi also taught the children how to go about starting their first books and writing letters to publishers to pitch their ideas. Volponi also signed and gave away copies of some of his old books, as well as a copy of “Game Seven.”
Orens believes overall the experience will be a good memory for the students.
“Getting feedback from a professional author, and participating in a workshop, which they know their other friends didn’t have an opportunity to do, they now have a memory that they can carry with them through high school,” Orens said.