Book club allows students to flip the script

Coordinator of TRiO programs Mandy Hernandez and TRiO student Damaris Pinales discuss with their book club in the TRiO labs at South Campus. KJ Means/The Collegian
Coordinator of TRiO programs Mandy Hernandez and TRiO student Damaris
Pinales discuss with their book club in the TRiO labs at South Campus.
KJ Means/The Collegian

campus editor

Mystery, true crime, drama and great conversation are what’s to be expected as a member of the Beyond Words book club.

Beyond Words was started during the pandemic as a way to keep students connected and engaged. 

Upward Bound is a federally funded TRiO program that offers year-round support for students while still in high school and prepares them for entrance into college.

Mandy Hernandez is the Everman High School coordinator for Upward Bound. 

“Our goal is to motivate and encourage the students to become more interested in reading,” Hernandez said. “To show students how reading can be engaging, impactful and fun. To promote healthy and powerful dialogue through different themed novels and to increase student vocabulary, reading skills and literacy.”

South student Deyanira Mendoza is on campus for the book club or the Upward Bound podcast every week. Beyond Words has caused her to get back into reading. 

“On my free time I tend to read,” Mendoza said. “I don’t find it just as a hobby but something I’m passionate about. When you’re stressed, reading can help you focus on something else besides your issues.” 

Beyond Words has given the students a way to relate to each other and the world around them. 

Camila Valdez, a sophomore at Everman and South Campus student, enjoys books with familiar characters. 

“The House On Mango Street shows a lot of Hispanic culture and we can relate to that,” Valdez said.

She talked about “If These Wings Could Fly” by Kyrie McCauley, which is a novel about sisters stuck in a tough situation.

“In the book there are three sisters,” she said. “It’s like me and my sisters. The middle child, I could relate to her because I’m a middle child as well. We don’t get as much attention from our parents as our other siblings.”

The book club also gives the students a stage to speak freely amongst each other. 

“When we have our discussions about the chapters, I get to hear the different perspectives from the different schools,” Mendoza said. “So you think about a new aspect, as to how they viewed the book and the chapters.”

Valdez said that she sees the book discussions as a safe space. 

“Sometimes I’m scared to say something, or to share my own opinions,” she said. “I’m scared they’re going to judge me or ignore me, but in book club we’re all there for the same purpose.”

Since the book club has students from two other high schools, the participants have the opportunity to connect with a broad range of people. 

Mendoza said she likes hearing other people’s opinions on certain topics. 

“Sometimes when we have our discussions about the books and we take turns saying our opinions, someone else says something I was about to say,” she said. “It kind of makes me think that they have the same mindset as me.”

Mendoza is clear that there are no raised voices during discussions. 

“We don’t get mad at every little thing if we don’t agree with the other person,” she said. “It helps us to be mature and considerate of others’ opinions.”

The Beyond Words members are having fun and want more students to join in their book club and Upward Bound. 

Camila said her sister has been a big influence for her. 

“My sister got me into Upward Bound,” she said. “She just kept promoting it to me. It sounded fun.” 

Her sister Viridiana Valdez joined Upward Bound right before high school. She is a senior now and already taking several classes at South Campus. 

“Personally I feel like Upward Bound is like a second family,” she said. “I’ve created relationships with the staff, and they have helped me throughout the years. I feel like I can rely on them for anything,” Viridiana said.

Viridiana Valdez wants other students to know the book club is a good way to try new things. 

“I would say that it is a great opportunity to not only grow and learn but to have new experiences,” Viridiana Valdez said. “Beyond Words allows you to collaborate with new people and hear different perspectives.”