By Denise Dick
Aalissia Thomas, 12, lit up when she saw the donation from the Adult Parole Authority to her seventh-grade class at Rayen Early College Middle School.
The Youngstown District Office of the Ohio APA adopted the school and donated four sets of Bluford Series books.
“I love these books,” Aalissia said.
The books convey stories of inner-city young people who face the same struggles faced by Youngstown Schools youth.
“They compare to our every day lives a lot,” Aalissia said.
Jason Nespeca of APA said the agency adopted the school as “a way to give back.”
Other APA offices across the region adopt other schools.
He also gave Deborah DiFrancesco, REC principal, a check to buy hygiene products for students.
DiFrancesco said those items, including toothpaste and deodorant, are kept in the guidance counselor’s office for students who need them.
APA also may donate cold-weather items for students who need them, she said.
“About mid-November when it gets cold in the morning, we’ll start to see kids come in without a heavy coat,” she said.
Some students don’t have hats, gloves or boots either.
“It’s a problem,” the principal said.
Nespeca said he talks with DiFrancesco to learn about the school’s needs.
Sabrina Hawkins, a seventh-grade language arts teacher at the school, was almost as excited as the students.
“The students love the Bluford Series,” she said. “It’s something they can really get into. It not something foreign to them.”
This marks her second year in the district and her first at REC, so she doesn’t have an extensive library in her classroom.
Tyrell Myers, 12, and also a seventh-grader, has read about half of the books in the series and looks forward to tackling the other half.
“It relates to us and our age,” he said.
Classmates TaeVion Soto and DeVonte Foster, both 13, and Bra’Nia Underwood and Alayah Dukes, both 12, haven’t read any of the books – yet. They all said they look forward to starting.
Aalissia said the series includes a few authors and she has her favorites. One book tells the story of a boy who steals money from a neighbor to buy a gift for a girl and reaps the consequences of his actions.
“Which one is that?” DiFrancesco asked. “I’m going to have to read that one.”