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‘The River’ makes a promising debut in Robeson County

May 30, 2014

“Not everybody plays on a sports team and not everybody can make the MathCounts team,” said Marcos Simon, a sophomore from Hope Mills, N.C. “Our idea with ‘The River’ was to create an opportunity for talent to shine in Robeson County.”

the river cover  

A photograph by Graceanna Schuster of the Lumber River was selected for the cover. She is a Fairmont High School student.

UNC Pembroke’s Literacy Commons unveiled its newest publication, “The River,” on May 1 at a dinner with the young contributing authors and artists who were drawn from the Public Schools of Robeson County.

“I was blown away by the talent I saw in these submissions,” Simon continued. “I wish I had the chance to do something like this when I was in school.”          

Simon was one of six UNCP students who worked on the project with The Literacy Commons, whose mission is to advance creativity and critical thinking by promoting literacy in its many forms. “The River’s” pages are filled with art, poetry and short stories selected by the student committee and submitted by students from Orrum, St. Pauls, Fairmont and other schools across Robeson County.

The first 45-page literary journal will be followed by volume two next year, said Dr. David Marquard, an English professor and director of the Literacy Commons.

the river student team

Literacy Commons Student Team – Front row from left: Brandi Guffey, Stephanie Brown and Sarah Austin; Standing from left: Jacob Brown, Marcos Simon and Jack Slavin

“The Literacy Commons began as an outreach to the public schools in Robeson County,” Dr. Marquard said. “As we became familiar with this community, we saw that there is a ton of talent out there that is untapped.

“‘The River’ is one journal that brings together the writing and art from many schools,” he said. “I would like to thank our partners in the Public Schools of Robeson County, especially Assistant Superintendent Linda Emanuel and public relations director Tasha Oxendine.”

The project is tailor-made for writers like Kyle Edwards of Orrum Middle School. “Kyle has his own Barnes and Noble card,” said his mother Vonda. “He reads all kinds of books all the time since he was very young.”

Kyle had plenty to say later in the program when he read his poem, “Life is a Flower.” His work began: “Life is a flower, that took a gamble rooting here.” Not all the authors were as bold as Edwards, but several, like Jacob T. Odom, a student at the Communities in Schools Academy, took the gamble.

the river writers

Contributing writers and artists to ‘The River’ from the Public Schools of Robeson County

“Happiness dances through my mind…like my own private ocean of laughs and cheers,” Odom read from his poem titled “Happiness.”

Creative writing is often personal. When Leah Locklear could not finish reading her story, titled “The Day I Lost My Friend,” Simon finished for her.

“As you can see, writing gets very personal, and thanks Leah for stepping out and publishing your story,” Simon said. “We can all relate to your story because we have all lost someone close to us. That’s what makes great writing.”

Shannon Godwin, a junior at St. Pauls High School, had a work of art selected for the new publication. The event brought students to UNCP for a closer look at campus. Godwin, who got a tour of the Art Department, liked what she saw.

“It’s really nice,” Godwin said. “I will definitely take a sculpture classes, but I want to major in graphic design. Right now, I am working in graphite and charcoal.”

UNCP’s student committee ran the program and were clearly thrilled with the project .

“My favorite part was looking through the art submissions because I like art, especially photography,” said Jacob Brown, a freshman from Burlington, N.C. “I liked that there was a wide range of work.”

A photograph by Graceanna Schuster of the Lumber River was selected for the cover.

“I enjoyed reading all of your work,” said Stephanie Brown, a sophomore from Statesville, N.C. “I hope to see you again next year.”

With that, the invitation was extended for volume two of “The River.”

For more information about The Literacy Commons and to read the rules for submitting work to the next edition of “The River,” go to their website at