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Hub editor shares stories and advice with students

Posted 26 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Sue Cook – Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers began a middle school assembly by sharing a picture from the Oct. 17 fire at Orleans Pallet in Albion. Many remembered the fire, but Rivers told them it was his job to think beyond the spectacle of the event to the impact on the community and the owner. He praised building owner Shawn Malark for his resilience in keeping his business open after such a disastrous fire.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

ALBION – Albion Middle School students have been working hard in the classroom all year, with an emphasis on writing. On Wednesday they heard from local author and Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers, who shared some tips from getting a good story.

Elizabeth Marquette, the New Teacher and Mentor Coordinator, invited Rivers. He was given the opportunity to tell students about his work as an author, reporter and photographer.

“He’s a local author,” Marquette said. “A lot of the kids know him and he’s a familiar face in the school community. We’re excited to have him.”

She explained that the students had already become familiar with Rivers’ work in class. Rivers wrote “All Ears: A decade of listening and learning from small-town Western New Yorkers” and “Farm Hands: Hard work and hard lessons from Western New York fields.”

“The students received vignettes of the books, and studied and answered analytical questions with their English teachers,” Marquette said.

The school purchased 464 copies of “All Ears” at a discounted price and each student received a book at the end of the assembly.

The entire student body, sixth through eighth grade, was at the presentation.

The students were shown a variety of images in the Albion community, including this picture of a tree at Mount Albion Cemetery after a December ice storm.

Rivers wanted the students to get more than just a talk about the importance of reading and writing.

“I want them to be more curious about their surroundings,” he said before his presentation. “They should ask more questions. In your community, you don’t always pay attention to the great things around you.”

He encouraged students to learn things around them that they perhaps had never seen or heard of. He showed the students an image of boot scraper from the 1800s that is outside the Daughter of the American Revolution house in Albion.

Rivers asked if students knew what it was. One boy suggested that it was something for chopping wood, but many of the students had no idea. It was an example of seeking out and asking questions about what look like the simplest things.

Rivers said he often will explore his surroundings after a storm or unusual event to gather information and look for sights others might miss.

Rivers encouraged students to explore the details of the world. He showed images of horses, farmer Ken Nice walking between two different colored rows of flowering trees and various images from the recent winter storms.

The images showed that taking something you see regularly and viewing it from a different angle, time of day or season can bring a whole new life to something.

Rivers enjoys learning about the community and sharing his discoveries with readers on the Hub. He urged the group to learn more about Albion and American history.

“If you love something, you should know about it and know about its history,” Rivers told the students.

Rivers explains to the students about taking a small detail from the big picture, such as one of his images focusing on the dome of the Orleans County Courthouse, rather than the entire building.

Rivers also talked about getting to know the people around you because each person has a story to tell. He explained his process of actually going out and physically learning about something in order to be able to better write about it.

For the book “Farm Hands” he went to several local farms and worked with livestock, as well as working alongside migrant workers in the fields.

Picking cucumbers was the hardest job. He recalled how he struggled with the task. The other workers saw him having trouble keeping up and would put cucumbers into his basket or in a pile to help him keep pace rather than leave him behind.

“It was a powerful lesson for me,” said Rivers. “If you help someone a little it can give them the energy to keep going and not give up.”

Rivers also took the time to remember people in our community who have passed away, but left a big impact on others, like Jenna Stoddard. Years ago, Stoddard was a student in Albion school. She had a kidney disease that required dialysis and eventually she had to go to a Pittsburg hospital for further care. Rivers had heard about how she was one of the favorites of the staff there and paid her a visit to see how she was affecting lives around her, despite her own hardships.

“One of the things I would encourage in all of you as part of your personal story is to be a good friend to each other and reach out to other people,” Rivers said. He told the students that it helps build connections and experiences between yourself and those around you.