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Author donates books to GROW Academy

Charles Hildebrand, a man who spent decades working and teaching in the Shafter and Wasco area, recently donated a group of books that he wrote to the GROW Academy.

Hildebrand donated copies of a series of books that he wrote, each containing a story that is geared towards middle school aged children, one of which is titled, "I Could Have Been a Hero, In the School Yard."

Hildebrand, who retired from the teaching profession years ago, has used writing as an outlet that keeps him going through some rough times.

"I would start writing a little bit, and before you know it, it is eight hours later and I had written page after page and I had lost all track of time," said Hildebrand.

Hildebrand being an author is a little ironic, considering that he grew up not being able to read. He grew up in the Tulsa, Oklahoma school system and got by on his quick wit, faking it when it came to reading, especially in class.

"I had to sound out words, and didn't comprehend anything that I was reading, just reciting the word that I could make out," said Hildebrand.

Finally, in high school, a teacher realized one day in class that he couldn't read. This set off a series of tutoring sessions and long days and nights, helping him catch up to the rest of his classmates.

Upon graduation, he went to college as a music major. After school, Hildebrand enlisted in the United States Navy and was a part of the United States Navy Band.

After his stint in the Navy, Hildebrand began a teaching career that would see him teach, ironically, English and drama. One of the highlights of this time, according to Hildebrand, was his time teaching when GROW Academy was first opened up.

"I told Joanne, the principal at the time, that I wanted to be a part of this school. I would empty trash cans and clean the hallways if I have to. I just want to be a part of it," he recalled.

Through some rough personal times, including a hard divorce, Hildebrand used writing as an outlet for his emotions, sometimes writing until the break of dawn.

"I rented a room over on the coast and relaxed, sat down to write a bit, and before I knew it, it was morning, and I had written my first book," he said.

Hildebrand's first book was a murder mystery. This was followed by a book, "I Could Have Been a Hero." It was the story along the lines of the popular Diaries of a Wimpy Kid.

He was talking with an editor friend from Fresno State, Janelle Nagai, when she read the book. She suggested each of the chapters of the book would make a great short book on its own.

Flash forward a few years, and Hildebrand was talking with his friend and local author Barry Bongberg. Bongberg had found success with his own book, "Letters to Mom and Dad, From Vietnam."

Bongberg suggested to Hildebrand that he get the books published. Not knowing how to go about it, Bongberg helped him. The series of 12 books is a labor of love, Hildebrand said.

"These are stories that anyone can relate to, be it a middle-schooler, or adult, everyone has gone through the things that these characters face," said Hildebrand.

He decided to donate the books to give back to the school that will always have a special place in his heart.

"I hope that all of the kids get as much out of the books that I did actually writing them. If it helps just one student, this labor of love is worth all of the effort," he said.


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