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Students essays, poetry casts light on families, dreams for the future
Great Valley Writing Project workshop participants at Woodward School in Manteca celebrate the last of the two-week program with site coordinator Michelle Crippen, at center in back row. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Diana Duarte is only 9 years old but she already knows what she wants to be when she grows up.

“Can you keep a secret?” she said with a giggle that is more self-consciousness than being flippant. “I want to fulfill Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream.”

While she’s working on pursuing that dream, the soon-to-be fourth grader is honing her skills in writing stories and songs with the help of an annual summer program called Great Valley Writing Project. She was one of the 56 students who took part in the writing and technology workshop held at Woodward Elementary School. The two-week session concluded on Friday.

“She improved a lot in her writing. She enjoys (the program) a lot and using the computers. When she’s at home, she keeps writing and writing and tries to write stories about things,” her mother, Norma, said.

This is Diana’s second year in the summer program. A sample of her writing is included in the 2014 Woodward Anthology, the published collection of stories and poems written by the young workshop participants who also put together the publication, both online and as a hard copy.

Bobogeno’s Life, by Diana Duarte (an excerpt)

Once upon a time, I wrote a newspaper article about a funny-looking traveler who lives in a space station. It all started when I asked to make an article that makes people laugh because you don’t read about this type of stuff every day.

Oh, I almost forgot. The traveler’s name is Bobogeno. Bobogeno likes to eat cake in space. Bobogeno’s dream is to go to earth with his family. Bobogeno looks like an elephant, but he walks on two legs. He also has a friend named Bobojune. He likes to eat cake with Bobogeno. Bobojune is an alien who also likes to eat cake.

Each workshop participant is given free rein as to the type of article they want to write for the anthology, be it poetry, essay or short story. Some students have opted to write their autobiography in a nutshell, or about an unforgettable moment in their young life. In the following anthology entry, budding writer Mario Palacios of Lathrop introduces readers to his family.

My Family, by Mario Palacios

My name is Mario Palacios and I am ten years old. I’m turning eleven next month on July 3, 2014. I got two sisters and a baby brother. My two sisters are an ache sometimes and my baby brother is bouncy. I live in a small house in Lathrop. I’ve lived in the same house since I was a baby. My parents have lived there for 11 years. My favorite place go that’s in Lathrop is called La (Vallarta). It’s a Mexican restaurant. It has all kinds of Mexican food, that’s why I like it. The foods I like to eat from there are tacos. They are really good with lemon. My favorite thing to do in summer is to go swimming, play soccer in my front yard or at the park. I also like to play with my baby brother. I am kind of enthusiastic for going back to school because I will get to see my old teachers and my friends. I will get to meet my new teacher for 6th grade. I will also be excited for 6th grade because we’re getting tablets for books next year.

Matthew Martinez wrote about his family’s outdoors experience at Tulloch Lake. His story is both informative and entertaining, first telling his readers what type of preparation is needed when going camping and then segues into the fun times he and his family had at the lake – cooking, eating and fishing.

My Family Camping Trip, by Matthew Martinez

Hi, my name is Matthew. I am going to tell you about my camping trip with my family. The first thing you need to do is getting organized. You have to buy a lot of food and drinks. The second thing is getting your tents, sleeping bags, and pillows ready. The third thing is getting your boat ready. We took an hour drive to Tulloch Lake. We had to set up camp. When we were done setting up the tent, we put the boat in the lake. I stayed there for three days. When it got dark, we made pizzas. Then we roasted marshmallows and made smores. Then we went fishing, and I caught 8 fish! We sat by the fire and I saw bats and deer. I had a semi-final game and had to leave but I had a lot of fun! And to make it better, I won a game!

In the 2014 Woodward GVWP Anthology, there are only two poetry entries – The Life of Food by Ye Khaung Oo, and I am me by Nevaeh Keliinoi. 

In The Life of Food, Ye Khaung Oo writes:

I am hungry and thirsty

I wonder when pizzas can fly

I hear food calling to me

I see peanut butter crackers

I want food

I am hungry and thirsty.

I pretend to be eating food

I feel bad

I touch food

I worry about food

I cry when there’s no food

In Nevaeh Keliinoi’s I am me poem, she writes in part:

I want to see what I can be

I wonder what I’ll be

I see the future and it’s me

I say wow that’s a beautiful me

I am me

To read the entire 2014 anthology, go to which also provides additional information about the Great Valley Writing Project as well as links that will take you to other sites where you can view photographs of the students attending the writing workshops as well as pictures of the students’ other projects.