Local foster teens from URI’s First Star Academy create book about their experiences; book reading Jan. 23 at Providence’s Books on the Square

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Kingston, R.I., Jan. 13, 2014 — Rhode Island students in the foster care system who attended the First Star Academy at the University of Rhode Island have written a book based on their foster care experience entitled Peek into My Pain: Reveal My Strength, which is available for purchase.

Peek into My Pain was written by 22 teenage foster students participating in the 2012 First Star URI Academy, a college prep program for children in foster care held on the University’s Kingston campus. Students participate in a variety of social, emotional and educational experiences during a four-week residential stay. Sandra Enos, associate professor of sociology at Bryant University, and Ariana Alicea, a former student and graduate of the foster care system, taught a three-week storytelling workshop at the academy in July 2012. The stories the students wrote were compelling, heartbreaking, and painful.

“One of the students – O. Patrick in the book – when we asked him to tell his story, he said, ‘I have a story to tell but I don’t know why it would be important,’ ” said Enos, a Peace Dale resident. “That question really echoed with me. I think these kids need to tell their story in a relatively safe way and to be confident that somebody is paying attention.”

Members of the First Star Academy will celebrate the book’s launch by reading stories from Peek into My Pain at a Jan. 23 reading at Books on the Square, 471 Angell St., Providence. The event starts at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be provided and signed copies of the book will be available for $17. Proceeds will benefit the students of the First Star URI Academy. The Academy’s goal is to help the students graduate from high school and achieve success in higher education.

The Academy students selected the title for the self-published book and decided on the general design. Additional contributors were solicited from leaders in child welfare in the state under the general idea that “it takes a village to raise a foster child; let’s build that village.”

“I think it’s important if you’re going to be a citizen and a member of a community to be curious about what’s going on and try not to leave any vulnerable populations invisible,” said Enos. “And you can be informed by hearing the voices of the invisible. It makes their voices more powerful and your education deeper.”

Generous donations from Matt Cullina, CEO of Identity Theft 911, and the Sweet Fern Fund have underwritten the cost of producing the book. Please visit First Star Academy for more information, or contact Academy Administration Director Merry Caswell at 401.874.2168 or at caswellm@cox.net