Turning darkness into light and dreams into reality. That’s an autobiographical description of ’18 education grad and elementary teacher Kendall Newell’s life. It also describes his first-ever children’s book, which shines a light on uniqueness, overcoming doubt and uplifting one another.
Kendall is the author of the newly published “A Star Upon a Dream,” an illustrated children’s book that exemplifies the importance of believing in one’s potential and uniqueness. There are striking parallels between the book’s message and Kendall’s life experiences. He’s hoping those who read it will be inspired to become their own shining star.
As a child, Kendall struggled mightily from preschool through adolescence and into high school. “As the years went on, I struggled academically and performed below average, compared to my peers,” he recalls. When he reached junior high school, the struggles intensified. “We were reading novels and I still could barely read fluently. I did have academic support from my individualized education plan along with cognition-enhancing medication. But the frustration of school continued to overwhelm me.”
Then, the harsh reality of high school hit.
‘What’s the point?’
Kendall was operating under the preconceived notion that college was vital for a successful life. But his academic record wasn’t stellar and his test scores unimpressive. “I had no hope for whatever life had in store for me following high school,” he says. “I didn’t think I was good enough or smart enough and I believed that.”
That’s when he hit rock bottom – almost. “I wanted to give up on life because I was used to being told and feeling that I wasn’t good enough. As a kid, if you hear something enough, you end up believing it, so my mindset was, ‘What’s the point?’”
The mental and emotional burden was so overwhelming that Kendall contemplated suicide. But this story has a happy ending.
Supportive friends and family, as well as the sport of wrestling – pulled him through those dark days. His attitude changed. Now, he had hope. “I knew I could accomplish anything I wanted to do in this life, and no one can tell me what I can or can’t do,” he says.
He retook the ACT – the first big step toward his dream to enroll in college to become an elementary teacher – and ultimately landed at Heidelberg. On campus, he was able to continue his passion for and found a supportive environment that allowed him to finally thrive academically.
The role of wrestling
It’s the sport that taught him a strong work ethic, ambition and persistence. But it didn’t start out that way. Kendall had to work hard, putting in the time to train and achieve his goals. As a senior in high school, he set a big one: to make it to the Ohio State wrestling tournament. And he used doubters as motivation.
“I remember other kids telling me I would never make it; even adults would doubt me,” he says. “This stuck with me and I thought about it all the time. It made me want to work harder, and despite all the doubts, I continued to fight.”
And he reached his goal, qualifying for the state wrestling championships, finishing eighth despite having a torn ACL in his knee.
Kendall pursued wrestling at Heidelberg. “I wasn’t a star athlete but the sport kept me on track. I needed wrestling more than wrestling needed me.” He credits his coaches – including the ‘Berg’s Tony Patrizi – for helping to mold him into the person he is today.
Back to the book …
Kendall has already accomplished so much more – both personally and professionally – than what a test score said he was capable of. He’s hoping the message in his book does the same for the children who read it.
The book follows Meleah Rowland, a third-grade student whose dream is to become a zoologist. She quickly learns how it feels to be doubted, thus diminishing her light. She learns a very important lesson from her father, Charles Rowland, through the story of his own past to becoming the shining star he is.
Writing “A Star Upon a Dream” was fun and easy; the publishing and promotion process is a different ballgame. Kendall raised $3,000 to help fund the process of self-publishing and worked with Xlibris Publishing.
“I signed the manuscript over to them in the winter of 2019. Since then, I quickly learned how long and tiring the process can be, from working with your illustrator and editor to planning for the marketing of the book,” he says.
The book was finally released on Aug. 5. It’s an awesome feeling being a published author but it’s hard work. The first step in a long road is to obtain reviews from readers. You can leave your review on Amazon!
Meanwhile, Kendall has his day job to fall back on! He is in his fourth year of teaching, this year teaching second grade in West Carrollton City Schools and really enjoying his new community. “I already feel at home and truly see myself staying for the long run of my career,” he says. “Teaching is a very rewarding career because I get the pleasure of making a difference in the lives of generations to come.”
Softcover and digital versions of “A Star Upon a Dream” are available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Hardcover versions, along with softcover and digital versions, can be found on the publisher’s website at https://www.xlibris.com/.