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NMS Students Raise Awareness About Stuttering



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Twins Ben and Ethan Paley sat with their fellow seventh grade cluster students as author Vince Vawter spoke on screens in two classrooms via Skype, on Thursday, March 10.

For the boys, the Skype session was the culmination of their B'nai Mitzvah project, and both were smiling ear to ear when the session was over.

"I don't know how much I can thank you," said Ethan to Mr Vawter in one classroom. "This is awesome."

The twins will turn 13 on April 28. They will celebrate their B'nai Mitzvah - a Bar Mitzvah, or the traditional Jewish coming of age ceremony and celebration, for multiple boys - at B'nai Israel in Southbury on June 18.

Andrew Paley, the boys' father, explained part of a B'nai Mitzvah involves completing a project to bring awareness about something that is meaningful to a group or community.

Mr Paley said Ethan and Ben loved Mr Vawter's book Paperboy, and they decided to do something involving the book. Both the boys, he said, are affected by stuttering.

To complete their project the boys contacted both Mr Vawter and the National Stuttering Association. Once their idea was formed, the boys then approached their cluster teachers, who agreed to add the book into the cluster's curriculum.

Ben described Paperboy as a unique book about a boy who stutters and takes over a friend's paper route, meeting new people and facing challenges throughout the story.

According to the boys, Seven Green cluster teachers Michele DiFalco, Jeff Green, Shari Oliver, and Elizabeth Stevens read the book out loud to students during reading lab.

"So everyone gets to read it," said Ben, just a few days before the Skype session occurred.

Ben and Ethan were both excited for the culmination of their efforts to happen, and that their friends and fellow students were reading the book.

Ben said he read the book three times, and while listening during reading lab he smiled knowing what was coming.

Ethan and Ben said reading the book was helping to raise awareness with their fellow students, and both of them were still thinking of questions to ask of Mr Vawter.

A Successful Skype Session

By the morning of March 10, the boys and their fellow students were ready with questions. One by one students posed their questions about the book and the author via Skype, standing up so Mr Vawter could see them on his own screen.

Mr Vawter, who lives in Tennessee, spoke to two classrooms, so the entire cluster could participate in the event. He explained how parts of the book, which is fiction, were based on his own experiences.

When asked why he wanted to be an author, Mr Vawter said he thinks his frustration with stuttering when he was younger led him to the newspaper business and, later, to being an author.

Students also asked about strategies Mr Vawter uses to deal with stuttering, whether scenes and characters from his book are real, and the writing process.

"I think we all have to find our voice in our own way," Mr Vawter said in response to one question.

Mr Vawter said writing Paperboy took six years, and he estimated that he wrote more than 200,000 words to eventually arrive at the 50,000 words that made it into the novel released in 2013.

The author also gave the students a bit of a preview of his sequel to Paperboy, sharing that his writing style will be different in the next book.

"We'll see how this next one goes," he said, smiling.

When asked why he wanted to write Paperboy, Mr Vawter said he wrote the book thinking that he could help at least one young person who may feel lonely or confused by sharing the message that things will work out.

"That's what inspired me," said Mr Vawter, adding that his message to "all the stutters out there" is they should not try to be like everyone else, despite probably wanting that "deep down."

"You should find your voice… Stay unique and don't try to be like everyone else," Mr Vawter said.

After the Skype presentation, Ben and Ethan were both thrilled and surprised their project had grown to such a large scale.

NMS Principal Thomas Einhorn said, following the event, he is "incredibly proud" of the entire cluster's work to put "this amazing program" together.

Everyone, Mr Einhorn said, seemed to learn a lot from the Skype session with Mr Vawter, and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

The boys both said they were happy their entire cluster participated in the event.

More information about the author and Paperboy is available at vincevawter.com.

Ben, left, and Ethan Paley after their entire seventh grade cluster at Newtown Middle School participated in a Skype session with Paperboy author Vice Vawter on Thursday, March 10. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
Paperboy author Vince Vawter is seen on the screen during one of two Skype sessions with Newtown Middle School students on March 10. (Bee Photo, Hallabeck)
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