Miami Norland Senior High School’s ‘Freedom Writers’ spread hope

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. – Seven students’ stories went from the classroom to the “Dear Freedom Writer: Stories of Hardship and Hope from the Next Generation” — a book that is distributed worldwide.

Precious Symonette, who has a doctorate from St. Thomas University, is the Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ creative writing teacher who helped to make that possible.

“‘Dear Freedom Writer’ is this book that elevates students’ voices, it elevates teachers’ voices. It lets you know exactly what is happening with students and that everyone should be listening right now,” Symonette recently said in her classroom.

Nija Maxwell, Jalen Waters, and Anthony Miley are among the student members of the Viking Freedom Writers. They meet regularly with Symonette in a small classroom at Miami Norland Senior High School, at 1193 NW 193 St., in Miami Gardens.

Anthony and Nija said that being a part of the Viking Freedom Writers is like belonging to a family. Anthony described the group as “a poetry club: and “a place to just be free.”


“It took me away from all of the negative things and started showing me so much positive things about myself, about the world,” Nija said. “It created a whole new mindset for me.”

Jalen said the writing has helped him to better understand himself and his work with the Viking Freedom Writers has become a healthy outlet that is free of judgment. That is Symonette’s goal.

“When you write, the paper doesn’t judge you, the paper lets you be who you are,” Symonette said through tears.

Symonette also said it is important to create a safe space for her students to tell their stories. She has been doing so for years.

“The only way that we are going to improve the educational experiences of all students is to be real and honest about what’s happening in our world and what’s happening to our students.”

Anthony had advice for other aspiring writers: “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable, open your mind, and trust the process.”


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