A Book Makes a Lasting Impression

By: Jo Anne Disney
December 18, 2013 • 349 views

San Gabriel

Meaningful books can definitely impact the lives of young people around the world and they certainly have in the city of San Gabriel.

San Gabriel Mission High School has a school-wide summer reading program. The entire school community, including students, staff and faculty read and discuss a novel/memoir written by a strong female role model. As an all girls Catholic College Preparatory High School, SGMHS wants to motivate their young women. According to principal, Jamie Collins, “This has proved to be a very successful program and as faculty and staff, we even spend some time during our overnight retreat at the beginning of the school year sharing our thoughts on the novel.” This year the entire school read My Beloved World by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. According to Mr. Collins, “Her story touched the entire school on a personal level and has reminded us of the potential each of our young women holds. As principal, I am proud to be a part of a community of educators that cares so much for the young women we have the privilege to teach on a daily basis. Incidentally, many of the struggles and obstacles that Justice Sotomayor faced as a young woman mirrors the struggles and obstacles our young women face today. This, I believe, is why her story is so powerfully inspiring.”

After discussion about the book with her Freshmen English class, Mary Mansell had her class write letters to Justice Sotomayor. The students were asked to write about, “What was beloved in their world and what were their dreams?” The letters were sent and to the surprise of the class, Justice Sotomayor responded. In her letter, Justice Sotomayor was very touched by the letters and as a thank you sent each of the students a signed photograph. She said, “Thank you for the gift of your letters. You are very special people, and I am honored you read my memoir. I enjoyed hearing about your lives and about the parts of my book that had the most meaning to you. Many of your insights were remarkable and made me feel that my work was worthwhile.” She went on to say, “Some of you asked me for advice. The most important piece of advice I ever received was being told that the character of a person was not measured by how many times he or she was knocked down, but by the number of times he or she got up. You will face many challenges in life and perseverance in the face of adversity will reflect the depth of your character.”

Mary Mansell with Freshmen from her English Class

It seems Justice Sotomayor was so taken by the letters she received from the freshmen class that she shared them with her publisher. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, contacted SGMHS and requested permission to use the letters in a possible online or printed brochure to show what a positive impact the book made in the classroom. Mr. Collins was delighted with such a great honor for his students at SGMHS. At the writing of this article, the students’ letters are on the Random House High School Facebook page and their Freshmen Year Reading Facebook page. Comments are already being posted.

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