Forget your average writing assignment, one local middle school student can now had published author to her list of achievements.
"I wanted to scream, I just wanted to…I didn't know what to think," said 8th grader Sharlene Draft describing her reaction to seeing her poems published in a book of her own called "An Anthology: The End of a New Beginning."
Sharlene is only 14 years-old, but she says she's been writing since she was seven. She says she wrote more than 300 poems during her 7th grade school year alone. Teachers at Heyward Gibbes Middle School in Richland One picked up on her talent and wanted others to be able to read her work, too.
"[She's] a young lady who has perspective of this world that many young people her age can't even fathom," said Hugh Harmon, a 6th grade teacher at Heyward Gibbes. Harmon is also a co-founder of a local publishing company and helped make Sharlene's dream a reality.
Sharlene says most of her writings are inspired by her life. She adds that just a few years ago, she found herself getting into a lot of trouble and it was focusing on her writing and her dreams that helped her change directions. "I have come a long way," said Sharlene.
Sharlene says her school and her teachers were her drive for getting her book published. "I wanted to do it for Gibbes because, they always put Gibbes at the bottom…I wanted to bring Gibbes up to the top," added Sharlene.
Principal Kwamine Simpson acknowledges the stigma that sometimes comes with the middle school. "We have been a priority school for a number of years and while our standardized test scores may not be at the top, we do have talented teachers and talented students," said Simpson.
Simpson says that includes Sharlene and adds that her gift and her book are helping to change perspective, starting with her peers. "It's given them a sense of pride, that somebody who's in the same grade that they're in, somebody who looks like them, and comes from the same community could actually publish a book as a middle school student," added Simpson.
Sharlene says her advice to students her age and to anyone who has a dream is that anything is possible. "My biggest message would be, whatever your talent is, stick to it and pursue your dream, no matter what anyone says to you, don't let it put you down," said Sharlene.
Sharlene's book includes more than 20 of her favorite poems. The book can be found online on Amazon or Lulu.com, or by visiting any Barnes and Noble Bookstore and requesting the book under author name and title.