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Author Octavia Yearwood Explores Foster Care In New Multimedia Book

Courtesy of Octavia Yearwood
Octavia Yearwood's memoir "How The Hell Did You Do That?!" engages youth through a new multimedia component.

Local author and educator Octavia Yearwood is engaging young people through a new multimedia book. She partnered up with educational tech company videoRehearser to add a digital component to her memoir, “How The Hell Did You Do That?!”

Yearwood has been open about her traumatic experience as a foster child. Her book details how she survived the foster care system, the self-healing that took place years after and the steps she’s taken to learn to forgive. Now, she wants to take what she's learned and implement it in schools. Yearwood's book ends each chapter with a set of questions, which she's using as a curriculum to help foster youth or people who have been through similar traumatic experiences.

She recently launched pilot programs with two educational non-profits, Urgent Inc. and the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition. She's looking to expand the program to other schools and says she believes, "we're really shifting what we think mentorship looks like and how tech with mental health can play a role in supporting." 

WLRN: Briefly, describe the book for anyone who hasn't read it.

Yearwood: I always like to say that it's a guidebook, workbook and memoir. When I wrote the book I thought to myself 'what did I need as a youth?' And what I needed was guidance.

You wanted to point out your experiences in the foster care system. It's an important part of your growth and your personal journey. What specifically did you want to shine a light on in that experience to help other people?

I think that when creating anything, you want to fill a void. You want to provide what is missing, but also you have to pay attention to what you needed. So I focused on nine things -- the importance of creating works of art and how therapeutic and important that is to a human being. Forget about if you do finance or if you are a sculptor. Art is important for you. For your wellbeing. For your mental health. There's one chapter called Creme de la Chrome. Which Creme de la Chrome means what?

The best of the best. The top of the top.

Yes, so Cream de la Chrome it's the chapter on friendship and it's saying that you're going to choose the best of your reflection. Because Chrome is the metal that you can see your reflection in. So the best of your reflection is how you're going to approach finding your best friends.

Let's talk about this video component and how that works. So as you're reading through the book at the end of every chapter you're challenging the reader to think and answer questions beyond just what they read. So what happens next?

After you read the chapter you then go onto the platform and you see me. You see me ask you the question. You then see me answer the question.

I think that a lot of times when you ask somebody a question, sometimes people don't know what you mean by that. So this is now their opportunity to learn. What I mean by that, hear me answer it and then in the next video after that it's them, then they'll answer the question confessional style.

They videotape themselves.

They video record themselves answering the question. They do have an area where they can type it in if that makes them feel more comfortable before recording their video. And then when they submit that video that video comes directly to my email and I'm able to see the video and if I feel the need I can respond to their video.

Tell us about these two groups that you're working with, Urgent Inc. and the Overtown Children and Youth Coalition. What's your goal? What do you envision this is going to become?

Well I think that it's important to create a legacy. It's also important to realize that as an individual person, as a person who's taking on this task of really making an effort to make the world better, you've got to also know that you're not going to be everywhere and you can't be everywhere. So this is a way for me to not only immortalize the work that I want to do with the book and the impact that I want to have on the world. It's also to provide supplemental support to programs that need it. I wanted to create a program that provided true outreach. How are we really supporting mental health and our youth? How are we really shifting what we think mentorship looks like and how mentorship can actually unfold in the classroom? 

Learn more about Yearwood's book and educational curriculum. 

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.