‘2020 Visions’ book sales to benefit Stilwell students
“2020 Visions, A Memoir by the Stilwell High School Class of 2020” can now be pre-ordered. Proceeds from book sales will be used to buy Chromebook computers for the school. COURTESY
Stilwell High School English teacher Faith Phillips, center, and her 2020 graduating English class students worked together on a book that will benefit the high school. SHS graduates Sunny Duncan, left, and Bianca Baird recently joined Phillips in Stilwell to discuss the book. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL – A first-year Stilwell High School English teacher and her 2020 graduating class have collaborated on a book they hope will raise money to buy computers for the high school.
The book, “2020 Visions, A Memoir by the Stilwell High School Class of 2020,” will be released soon and includes journals, poems and insights by students and author and English teacher Faith Phillips.
Phillips said she is from a long line of Adair County Cherokees. Her grandfather, Harold “Jiggs” Phillips, served on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and was an educator and coach at Westville High School.
“The principal called me and asked me to come teach senior English at Stilwell High School. I got there, and I really didn’t expect to be a teacher, but you can call it somewhat of a calling. Once I got here…I would just take notes every day about what happened that day. It was probably about December or January when I started realizing that their story was good enough to probably be a book,” Phillips said.
She discussed the idea with her students and how they felt about having their personal journals published.
“A lot of them were really excited about it. A lot of the things they wrote were very personal, about their experiences growing up in Adair County, and I felt like that was a story, a voice, that hadn’t been heard, so I was really excited to be able to share their voices through something I had been doing as a career for the last 10 years,” Phillips said. “They wrote some poetry too. I started recognizing that they have a vision for the future, that they have optimism, despite all of the challenges we are faced with in Adair County.”
Readers will also get a glimpse of Phillips’s first year teaching. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Law who stopped practicing about 10 years ago to become an author. She has authored four books.
The “Visions” book is available on Phillips’ website ReadBooksBy.FaithAmazon.com
. She hopes the sales will allow the school to buy Chromebook computers for students and continue a movement she started in 2019.
“That was one of the issues that I came across when I started last year. I realized a lot of the seniors didn’t have the tools that students in bigger school districts have, and I knew they were extremely talented, they were creative and smart and funny, and I just thought it was a shame that they didn’t have the same access to the tools that other students have in Oklahoma,” she said. “I knew once they got access to the same tools that they would excel and shoot to the top. It turned out to be that way because once they got their Chromebooks they started doing research about the Washington Post article that said Stilwell was the ‘death capital of the United States.’ They didn’t like that, and I didn’t like that.”
The class researched, wrote and produced a podcast to disprove the article, and National Public Radio selected it as a finalist out of 2,000 entries for its NPR Student Challenge.
Because she’s going to college to study nursing, for the book SHS graduate Bianca Baird said she wanted to research Adair County’s health aspects to refute the article.
“I focused on exercise. If we come together we definitely can make great improvements (to the community). If we’re silent, we can’t do anything,” Baird said.
Baird said she included in her journal that she and her classmates faced challenges this year mainly because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but they maintained a positive attitude.
SHS graduate Sunny Duncan, who plans to study radiology and possibly run for principal chief someday, researched drug addictions for the book because she said some of her family members were on drugs and it “helped her better understand what they went through.” It also taught her that she could help those relatives.
Duncan said she also learned that she and her classmates were stronger as a group and could create a “big movement” to improve the community. She said what bothered her the most about the article was that the Washington Post did not do its research correctly.
“I went to my elders and asked them about it and they knew it wasn’t true. A lot of them had passed the age limit (for dying according the article), so I knew it wasn’t true. They didn’t use accurate research,” she said.
As for the Stilwell, Duncan said the community is “very welcoming” and will “lend a hand” when asked. “Everybody is pretty much family around here,” she said.Click here
to watch the video on YouTube.