Around 50 Odyssey Academy students toured North Hennepin Community College for a glimpse of a post-secondary option, giving the 7th-8th grade students something to ponder before hitting high school books.
Students from the Brooklyn Center school toured the campus and then listened to young adult writer Pete Hautman, author of 28 books, most of which are aimed at young adults.
Odyssey Academy social studies teacher Chris Nordmann said the day was meant to show the students that college is a viable option for Odyssey students, many of whom consider getting a job as their only option after high school.
A lot of the students will be the first in the family to attend college, he said.
“We want kids to be thinking ahead,” Nordmann said. “… It’s good for them to know that a place like this is right in their backyard.”
The Odyssey students saw a range of college offerings during the tour, and Hautman’s lecture provided a first-hand experience.
“We try to focus on doing experiential things and trying to personalize it for our students,” Nordmann said. “And so just the variety of (Hautman’s) writings and just getting them out of the school and actually seeing the person behind it, I think it’s very important, and I think it makes it real for them.”
The students were a fitting audience for Hautman’s presentation in the college’s Meet the Authors Reading Series. He directed the attention of the adults, sitting to the right of his podium, to the left, where the students sat.
“Young people in 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th grade. These are the people I write for, and it’s why I write,” Hautman said.
Some of his book ideas, which have touched on a range of topics, come from them, too, including, “How to Steal a Car.” It was inspired by a 14-year-old girl who responded to Hautman’s inquiry to a group of students. What kind of books do they like to read, he asked them.
The girl said she lived a boring 14 year-old life and she just wanted to read a story about a girl who steals cars.
“And I thought, ‘Wow. That’s a great idea,’” he said. “I love it. This kind of reduces why we read to just one very simple declaration. You know? Why do we read books about climbing Mount Everest? Are we going to climb Mount Everest? No. We want to know what it’s like.”
For many people, the same holds true with going to war or falling in love with a vampire.
After Hautman discussed his other books and the definition of young adult literature, students asked questions of the working writer.
One student asked what or who inspired Hautman to write books.
“Oh boy,” he replied. “Every author who ever wrote a book that I liked.”
After holding several jobs, he finally determined that it was time that he did what he wanted to do and figured out a way to do it.
Another student asked why he writes young adult novels.
At the beginning of his discussion, Hautman had said, among several other reasons for writing young adult novels, that he had realized how much of an impact reading had on him when he was growing up.
When the student asked him why young adults, he said younger readers are willing to read a book openly.
Adults can fall into a certain niche or get stuck to one type of book, whereas younger readers are open to reading about different subjects or genres, he said.
“To me, the experience of reading as a young adult was the most profound reading experience of my life,” Hautman said.
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