Students' Cartoons With A Message Tap Into Drawing, Writing,
Storytelling, Leadership Skills
May 23, 2005
By SUSAN KANIA, SPECIAL TO THE COURANT
Seventh-grader Kozani Medina is known as a quiet, hardworking
student at Fox Middle School in Hartford. But after creating
a comic book called "Jimmy's Turning Point," she's also being called
an artist and storyteller.
Kozani, 14, is one of 20 students in the after-school program
at Fox Middle who learned to write, design and illustrate comic
books in The Comic Book Project, an arts-based literacy initiative
developed at Teachers College of Columbia University in New York.
It is sponsored locally by The Children's Aid Society and the
Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
"I like to draw - that's my hobby, and the story just popped
into my head," Kozani said.
Youths in 10 cities, including
about 250 students in after-school programs at Fox, Quirk,
Bellizzi, and Hartford Magnet middle schools and Burr School
in Hartford, wrote comic books about leadership for The Comic
Book Project this year. The finished comic books will be displayed
on a website, and the best one from each of the 10 cities will
be published and distributed nationally by Dark Horse Comics
in a book entitled "We,
The Hartford students' comic books will be on display until
May 31 at Immanuel Congregational Church's Fellowship Hall, 10
Woodland St., Hartford, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The exhibit is free and open to the public. For information call
860-527-8121. Examples of the students' comic books can be viewed
online at www.ComicBookProject.org
Michael Bitz, the educational researcher who founded The Comic
Book Project, said it provides a creative way for kids to make
art and write at the same time. Though this is the debut year
for the project in Hartford, in previous years students in cities
such as Cleveland and New York have written comic books around
themes such as conflict resolution and environmental awareness.
About 10,000 students are participating this year, and Bitz hopes
to expand to the West Coast soon.
Kozani's comic book, which
she said was inspired by a relative who turned his life around
after using drugs, was selected to be published from Hartford.
At a reception honoring all the student participants, Andrew
Serrao, the principal at Fox Middle, told Kozani she was "a star," and
promised to hang a framed copy of her comic book in his office.
"My story is about a boy named Jimmy who must choose between
two paths - going to school, or smoking, doing drugs and hanging
out with a gang," Kozani said. Jimmy chooses the wrong path,
but his friends help him realize his mistake, and he becomes
a leader when he apologizes to them.
Bellizzi Middle School sixth-grader
Laquan White, 13, who plays on his school basketball team,
and draws and writes poems about basketball in his spare time,
wrote a comic book called "Leaders."
"Basketball is my sport, so I wrote about things you have
to work on to be a leader, like offense, defense, dribbling and
shooting," Laquan said. Being a leader in basketball also
means helping other kids, he said.
Eighth-grader Victor Rivera,
15, wrote his comic book "Uncle
Archie and Scrapy" during the Quirk Middle after-school
"It's about a mouse whose friends dare him to go and take
a picture of a cat," Victor said. The mouse gets the picture,
but he is also chased and scared by the cat before his uncle
"The lesson is that you have to lead people, not be led
by people," Victor said.
Aldwin Allen, coordinator of the after-school program at Fox
Middle for Catholic Charities, said even the students who don't
complete their comic books benefit from the skills they learn
during The Comic Book Project.
"Everyone learns basic drawing techniques, how to convey
emotion through art and how to use point of view to tell a story," Allen
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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