Just in time for summer reading lists, expressive Salem High School 10th-graders spoke and wrote about their personal identities, publishing those words in print and online as contribution to a national project that amplifies young voices of the American future.
“We Are America — Salem — Voices of the Nation’s Future” is a compilation of 30 Roanoke-area students’ stories about themselves, said English teacher Brittany Clark-Slaughter. A printed version is now on sale at Salem High School, with all proceeds going toward the purchase of books celebrating diversity.
“It started off as an oral storytelling project,” Clark-Slaughter said. “The idea is they tell the story, and then write it out afterwards.”
Salem High School was one of 40 schools across the nation picked to participate in this year’s We Are America project, a student-led initiative originating from Massachusetts high schoolers in 2018, Clark-Slaughter said. The exercise in oratory self-expression resulted in an abundance of themes, topics and discussions.
“A lot of them wrote about COVID,” Clark-Slaughter said. “We also had a lot of students write about religion, identity, friendships, moving — pretty much anything.”
One student detailed their discovery of racial inequality, while another explored acceptance of change, alongside entries on blinding opinions, parental abuse, addiction, pursuit of perfection and musical arts.
Sky Williams’ entry, “Who Am I?” is on LGBTQ+ matters, she said.
“I was a little confused at first on what to write about. It took me a little bit to get started,” Williams said. “I tend to write a lot, so it was a bit hard trying to tell the story out loud instead of just typing it or writing it down.”
It was a surprise to find out what others’ entries were about, Williams said.
“When I was reading through I learned a lot about people that I didn’t really expect to find,” Williams said. “It was a way to kind of introduce me to another side of these people who I’ve seen in class.”
Purchasing a copy of “We Are America — Salem” supports the Salem High School English Department. To hear the students narrate their stories, go online to weareamericaproject.com/school/salem-high-school.