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Student comes to know mother after writing book

By KBell
March 1, 2011 at 10 p.m.
Updated Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.

Rebecca Copeland, center, shows off a book of stories she compiled about her mother to friends Erika Kraatz, left, and Paige Guerra at St. Joseph High School's Authors' Party and Art Show Extravaganza on Tuesday night.

For the first time in her 17 years, Rebecca Copeland knows how her mother's laugh sounded.

It was just like hers.

"(My mom) died when I was two years old," the senior at St. Joseph High School said. "I have two older brothers, and they knew her really well. But I never got the chance to know her."

Thanks to a project in her journalism class, Rebecca got to know her mother a little bit better through the eyes of those who loved her most.

At St. Joseph High School's Authors' Party and Art Show Extravaganza on Tuesday night, Rebecca saw that assignment - which was to write a story - manifest as a hard-covered, 50-page tribute to Sarah Jane Copeland, who died of ovarian cancer at the age of 44.

Rebecca said she always knew she wanted to write about her mother, but her teacher, Nancy Peters, gave her the idea for what she later titled, "A Mother Holds Her Children's Hands for a While; Their Hearts, Forever."

Rebecca contacted 14 people, including family and two of her mother's high school friends, to compile stories and photos of her mother.

"It allowed me to relate to her more and see how she was in high school," Rebecca said of the project.

Most surprising to Rebecca was that the mother and daughter seemed to share the same bubbly personality right down to their distinct laughs.

"People say they can hear my laugh from across the room, and nearly every story mentioned (my mom's) laugh," Rebecca said.

Flipping through the pages for the first time, Rebecca said the project was emotional at times, but it was mostly exciting.

"I enjoyed it a lot because I found out so much about her," Rebecca said. "There are just endless, little detailed memories."

She said she was grateful to Peters for the opportunity to compile the stories, something she never would have done were it not for the assignment.

Peters conceded the project, which she's been heading for 23 years, is a lot of work, but that the authors' party always proves the task is worthwhile.

"I have seen more blessings come out of students writing books than I can ever expect would happen," Peters said.



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