Tuesday, July 30, 2013

High School Advice #8 - Break the cycle, INCLUDE EVERYONE!! Guest post by YA author Jacinda Buchmann

My 8th Guest post of High School Advice comes to us from Jacinda Buchmann, author of Indigo Incite.  I think her post is fabulous, what do you think?

When Cassandra said that she was a teacher and was looking for guest posts about high school, I jumped on the opportunity. I was a teacher and then a full-time school counselor for several years before I became an author. Now I have the best of both worlds. Starting this school year, I will be a school counselor two days per week, and the rest of the time I will be able to write. I'm currently working on the second book in a trilogy :-)
So, the big question: What would I have done differently in high school? I've always been a practical person and thought that I never gave in to peer pressure. I never smoke, drank, or did drugs because I thought it was dumb. (Still think it's dumb by the way, LOL). I lived in a very small town, my graduating class had only 96 students, and in a small town there isn't a lot to do. Kids were either in sports, working on their parents' farm, or speed dating as many students as possible. Like any high school, anywhere, there were "the groups": "The Jocks", "The Cheerleaders", "The Drama Club", "The Stoners". I could go on, but I have a feeling you know exactly what I'm talking about. Given the physical location of where you live, the groups might be a little different. I grew up in Montana, so ethnicity and race wasn't really an issue as far as "groups" were concerned. There were Caucasian students and a handful of Native Americans, but that was basically it. In the schools around my area now, in Arizona, there is an equal toss up of Caucasian and Hispanic students, and I often see that race and ethnicity because a big issue as far as grouping goes. In the elementary schools I see the Hispanic students team up against the Caucasian students to play soccer at recess.  In middle school and high school I see the same type of racial separation at the lunch tables. My question is, why?  Why do people (of any age) feel the need to belong to a certain group? Is it right to want to belong to a certain group? Is it wrong? They are difficult questions, but the real answer is Yes and No.
Let me go back to the original question and I'll explain. What would I have done differently in high school? I said that I thought I never gave in to peer pressure, but is that really possible? To never give in to pressure? I don't think that's realistic and in thinking about it further, I realized that I did give in to pressure. In high school, I didn't associate myself with any particular group.  I certainly wasn't an athlete, wasn't in drama, didn't do drugs, wasn't considered a "nerd", I was just me. I got along with everyone in school, I was friends with people who I had things in common with, but outside of school I only hung out with a couple of friends. Because again, there was that whole, not giving in to peer pressure thing. I didn't like sports, so I wasn't going to go to a game just because that was the thing to do. I didn't drink so I didn't go to parties because that was the thing to do. I was just happy hanging out with my small group of friends, and I actually liked spending time with my family. So, what was the problem? What could I have possibly done differently?
I thought about that as I sat down to write this post, and the answer became glaringly clear. I DIDN'T go out of my way to befriend the kids who didn't have friends, the kids who didn't fit into a particular group or were considered "nerds" and laughed at by others. Why not? Probably because I was worried what other people would think of me. Would I be considered a "nerd" if I talked to them? Looking back now I think, "What the heck was wrong with me?" I was NEVER mean to anyone, but what excuse is there to sit quietly back and observe people who don't have friends, people who get laughed at by others, and do nothing? Would it have been that difficult to go out of my way to say, "Hi, it looks like you're sitting alone at lunch today, would you like to sit and have lunch with me?" Wow, that's a huge thought. So yeah, if I could go back and do things differently, I would have been a lot friendlier and welcoming to others. It makes me sad now to even think that I could have made a difference in someone's life simply by going out of my way to say "hi". For someone who doesn't feel like they fit in or have friends, a simple "hi" from someone, or a "would you like to sit and have lunch with me" goes a long way to make a difference in someone's day. A "hi" doesn't mean that you're suddenly going to be best friends, or that you "like" someone. It's simply showing that you're a decent person and care about others.
So back to the second question. Is it right or wrong to belong to a certain group? It's human nature to want to belong. Everyone wants to feel that they fit in somewhere in the world. It becomes wrong when we try to fit in somewhere where we don't belong. To try to be someone who we're not. And it's especially wrong to believe that you have to fit into one particular group and exclude all others. A sign of maturing and having a high self-esteem is recognizing that you can be friends and hang out with whoever you want. If a person is nice, if a person has something in common with you, then be nice back. It's okay to be friends with a wide group of people, regardless of their interests and regardless of their skin color.
When I wrote INDIGO INCITE, I created characters with a wide range of backgrounds and ethnicities. Though there are some Caucasian characters, there is also a main character who is half Native American half Mexican, a Chinese girl, and a mixed race African American girl. Oh, and perhaps my favorite, a young autistic boy. Is the story about race and ethnicity? Absolutely not. Does it ever become a topic or an issue? Nope. It's just a great action/adventure with a touch of fantasy and romance with characters who happen to be from different backgrounds who all become friends. It is my hope that, given time, more YA books will begin to show characters with a variety of backgrounds because isn't that who we all are? We're all different. We all come from different backgrounds, and it's about time that society begins to accept the fact that that's okay. Half of that begins with media and literature demonstrating that it's okay, but it also starts with you. Everyone can make a difference by setting a positive example.

About the Author:  Jacinda Buchmann lives in Arizona with her husband and three children. She graduated from Carroll College, in Helena, Montana, with a B.A. in elementary education and later received a Master’s degree from Northern Arizona University, in school counseling. After spending several years as a teacher and later a school counselor, she now spends her time writing, any free chance she can get, that is, when she’s not spending time with her family or creating a new concoction in the kitchen.

Connect with Jacinda:

Goodreads blurb:  There are no secrets

Sixteen-year-old Tyler believed that his extra-sensory powers were a secret, but when his twin brother, Toby, is kidnapped by a covert government agency, he realizes that he has no secrets, and he has nowhere to hide.

He’s not alone

Now, in order to save himself and rescue his brother, Tyler must call upon the help of four strangers. Unknown to each other, Eddie, Liliana, Grace, and Sarah share a common bond. They are Indigo Children. With extra-sensory powers of their own, they must unite with Tyler in order to maintain their freedom.

Unexpected romance

They’re on the run. They’re on a mission. Romance is a distraction that Tyler can’t afford. But sometimes, the heart has a mind of its own.

Time is running out

Will they find Toby before the agency finds them first? Find out in Indigo Incite, Book One of the Indigo Trilogy.

Interested in reading?

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