This book is a collection of both literary and visual art produced by the students at Yerba Buena High School in San Jose, California. After working numerous hours on their own creating their pieces for the book, these students then spent countless hours working one on one with us to perfect their work. For many people this may seem an easy task. However, life is not so easy on San Jose's east side.
When we came up with the idea to create a literary and visual art book, the Consortium of California Subject Matter Project at San Jose State University, the group who funded the project, did not see it as such a unique idea. We had to convince them that this was unique.
First, one needs to understand that while many of our students have caring and supportive families, they still face great challenges in their daily lives. Some students are parents, some have parents who cannot read or help them with schoolwork, some face various forms of violence, some move from place to place looking for stability and security, some help raise their younger siblings and many are full of amazing talent that needs to be shared.
Yerba Buena High School, where these students work to earn their diplomas, is classified as an under-performing school, but we are improving, as the work in this book will show. We are a school where we have common dress to help prevent gang violence, where 46% of our students are eligible for free lunch, where college is more often a dream than a given, where students joint teachers and staff to improve both academically and socially.
Our school is a wonderful place where we are making great strides in improved students' performance. But, it is not like those schools you see on television or in the movies. In all of those schools the kids can read but just don't want to read. Here, over half of our incoming freshmen are reading 3 or more years below grade level. Here we are not just covering curriculum for grades 9-12; we are, at times, having to go back to fourth or fifth grade curricula to re-teach skills that for various reasons are lacking. Here, at Yerba Buena, our students are running up hill and still finding ways to lead the race.
In this book, our students have the opportunity to show just how talented and amazing they are.
Thank you and enjoy,
Meghan Engle and J.A. Epstein