The Printing Industry Gives Back: Océ Future Authors Project

By | September 29, 2010

The Printing Industry is more than ink on paper. It is a community of people who, even in difficult economic times, find ways to give back locally and even globally. Over the next few weeks, TheDigitalNirvana will highlight some of the ways that the printing industry comes together to share time, money, creativity and knowledge with those in need.

Earlier this week, we learned of the passing of industry analyst Steve Reynolds and the fundraiser and events scheduled at GraphExpo in Chicago. Today we’re highlighting the Oce Future Authors Project.

The Océ Future Authors Project was established in 2006, as a partnership between Boca Raton-based Océ North America Production Printing Systems, a leader in digital printing solutions for the book industry, and the School District of Palm Beach County. It was created to provide middle- and high-school students with an opportunity to write creatively and learn about the process of becoming published authors.  Since then, more than 200 students have participated in writing workshops with professional authors who share their successful publishing experiences with the students.    

The mainstreaming of digital book printing and publishing allows these students to benefit from the publishing trend that enables books to be printed in runs as small as one or as large as several thousand.  The 5th annual Océ Future Authors Project book, “If Writing Were Easy, This Book Would Be Huge,” will be printed at Graph Expo from October 3rd through 6th in Océ booth # 1217.  The book will be unveiled to South Florida students in November.  The student stories, together with photographs of the classes, will be digitally printed, bound and delivered to the Kenyan student authors in early 2011.  The books will be available for sale around the US with the proceeds benefiting the program.

Extending the program across the globe was the brainchild of Arianna Pattek, a junior at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service. This summer, Arianna was an intern with ThinkImpact, a nonprofit organization that connects American college students with young adults in rural African villages as part of a long-term mission to alleviate poverty.   

Student Arianna Pattek

Arianna Pattek

While working in the Kenyan schools, Arianna discovered that students were excited to write about themselves and share their  prose with others. “They had never been asked to write about themselves,” she explained.  “They assumed their personal stories didn’t matter.”

Arianna saw an opportunity to extend the Océ Future Authors Project program, which she had learned about in her hometown. “I witnessed what was being done in Florida,” said Pattek, “and was able to apply that same framework, with some tweaks to fit the different context, to students in Kenya with the same dreams of expressing their feelings, sharing their personal stories and becoming real authors.”

Student Author from Kenya

Amos Tumaini Thoya

Most recently, the program visited the rural Kenyan town of Kaloleni Kenya where Amos Tumaini Thoya, whose middle name means “hope,” is a 32-year old high school student.  When Amos was born, he went home to live with more than 90 other relatives, including an ailing 76-year old father and a mother who was wife number eight.  While poverty, lack of access to education and care-taking responsibilities have presented Amos with severe life challenges, he remains hopeful for the future, especially since he became a student in the Océ Future Authors Project.  Amos was one of 50 Kenyan students, from ages 13 and above, who were able to share their stories and emotions in writing for the first time in their lives.

“I sometimes feel like giving up, but when I remember my real name, it gives me a change of mind and hope,” wrote Amos, who chronicled his life in a six-page essay describing a young man forced to give up school to care for his ailing father, support his siblings and deal with abject poverty, abuse and lost opportunities.  This essay will be digitally printed and published in a book along with more than 90 writings from all of the Kenyan workshop participants.

Kenyan Future Authors Workshop

Kenyan Future Authors Workshop

Arianna and her ThinkImpact partner, Stephanie Parrish, a senior at the University of Michigan, traveled to two schools every day for three weeks to teach the students about writing, editing and publishing.  As each student began reading his or her essay aloud, Arianna watched the program morph into “50 mini-therapy sessions,” she said. “They were never asked to share personal experiences, but they became so excited about the concept and the freedom to share. I was unprepared for how invested the kids would become in the project and how they would shape their writing assignments to fulfill personal needs that weren’t being addressed.

“Underneath, we all experience the same fundamental human emotions, such as love, loss, anger and joy,” said Arianna. “The Océ Future Authors Project really brought that fact to light.”

“Disrupting the cycle of poverty requires education,” said Saul Garlick, the founder and executive director of ThinkImpact.  Programs like this transcend socio-economic and cultural barriers and tap into the power of young people, their ideas, ambitions, leadership and creativity.”

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