Kranz Teen Read Week with Michael Jaime Becerra

Kranz Intermediate School Celebrates Teen Read Week with a Visit from Michael Jaime Becerra Author, Professor and Kranz Alum
Michael Becerra    Michael Becerra

 El Monte, CA —Former Kranz Intermediate School student, Michael Jaime Becerra returned to his alma mater to help the students celebrate Teen Read Week, October 17-21. Becerra, a critically acclaimed author and professor of creative writing at U.C. Riverside shared his passion for writing and how his time at Kranz helped lay the foundation for his career. 

Becerra’s work includes a book of poems called The Estrellitas Off Peck Road, a book of short stories entitled Every Night is Ladies Night and a novel titled This Time Tomorrow. All of his writing is set in El Monte and features familiar places and events in the community.

“I write about regular people like the lady in the drive through window at McDonald’s on Valley Blvd. and the big moments and turning points in their lives,” said Becerra, a resident of El Monte. “All of my characters live in El Monte and are people we can all identify with.”

Becerra always loved writing and while at Kranz his passion for writing was solidified when a teacher entered a book he wrote for the school’s book fair in the Education Expo at the Los Angeles County Fair. The book ended up winning a third place ribbon out of all the work submitted by students throughout Los Angeles County.

“Winning third place at the fair was a big deal for me,” said Becerra. “It was a life changing moment because I got to go to the fair to see my book displayed in this big exhibit hall with the ribbon on and it made me realize that someone from a place like El Monte could accomplish this. It convinced me that writing was what I wanted to do for a living.”

As the first member of his family to attend college, Becerra struggled until he enrolled in a poetry class that inspired him to turn things around. He started writing about what was important to him and was recognizable to others. His first published book, The Estrellitas Off Peck Road is a compilation of poems about the people of El Monte and moments in their lives. His poems included tributes to his mailman when he was growing up, eating at King Taco, and the day laborers he frequently saw waiting for an offer to work. This book of poems is resource used as part of Kranz’s eighth grade curriculum to teach poetry. His second book, Every Night is Ladies Night includes a few passages mentioning Kranz and his experiences navigating his adolescence as a student there.

“It was good that Mr. Becerra came to talk to us,” said eighth grader Alexis Alvarez. “I liked relating to all the stuff he read from his books. It’s all familiar to us because we live here and we’ve been studying his poems. It was cool seeing the author and hearing it out of his mouth.”

Becerra encouraged the students to find something they are passionate about and pursue it.

“You might not love to write like I do but if there is something you love to do like play video games, well someone has to create the next new video game so why can’t it be you? Just find what inspires you and work hard at it.”

In addition to the assemblies with students, Becerra talked with a group of Kranz parents about his education and career, and the importance of a college education.

“It was wonderful for our students to see someone who came from their community and their same background become successful,” said George Schonborn, Kranz Assistant Principal. “He is definitely an inspiration to our students and we are proud that he is a product of Kranz.”

As part of Kranz’s Teen Read Week celebration, students also participated in book poster contests, Accelerated Reader contests and had the opportunity to purchase the book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

“Mr. Becerra’s journey shows our kids how they too can succeed,” said teacher, Belinda Hyde. “Even though he had some bumps along the road in college he worked hard and achieved his dream of becoming a writer. Our class enjoyed reading his poems and writing their own comparisons of his work.”

Becerra plans to continue to focus his writing on El Monte and plans to write a novel about El Monte’s Lion Farm in the near future.

“Teen Read Week is a wonderful literary event held at Kranz and we appreciate Mr. Becerra supporting our efforts to promote reading and writing with our students,” said Carrie Johnson, Kranz teacher.

 

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