Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! Thank you all so much for joining us for another interview in our ongoing series! For this interview, we were able to speak with Jacqueline Atkins, author of the Mom’s Choice Award-winning book, From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story! From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story is the story of Jacquelina and her transformative journey from Panama to New York! Jacqueline’s story invites readers to experience how an immigrant child finds her identity, voice, and purpose. Keep reading to find out more about Jacqueline and her award-winning story, From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story!
MCA: Hi Jacqueline! Thank you so much for joining us today and a big congratulations to you on your Mom’s Choice Award! Given that this book is written based so much on your life, I’d love to start the interview by finding out a little bit about you!
Jacqueline: My name is Jacqueline Atkins, I am currently an Education Administrator. Prior to becoming an educator, I worked for a financial corporation in New York where I was an assistant vice president in the credit card division. I changed careers in 2005 and joined the New York City Teaching Fellows program through the City University of New York – Queens College. I worked as a Special Education teacher for several years and then became an Assistant Principal for an elementary school.
I currently volunteer for the data entry ministry at my Church, I am a member of Toastmasters International where I currently serve as the Vice President of Education. I am a foodie; my favorite foods are Spanish food and Caribbean foods. I enjoy participating in virtual walking challenges and enjoy walking daily. One of the things I really enjoy is helping others by giving of my time and resources.
MCA: Spanish food and Caribbean foods are so delicious! What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
Jacqueline: I was inspired to write my story when a friend wrote and published her book. Later that year a friend of the family published his book as well. When I held their books in my hands and read through them, I was so inspired that I immediately started to think about telling my story and bringing it to life through a book, as they had done. I congratulated my friend and began interviewing her about her process and how she accomplished it. Her advice to me was “Your first book is for you.” I took that advice to heart and started writing my story.
MCA: Your story matters because it is uniquely your own, and no one can tell it the way you can! Can you tell us more about how From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story came to be?
Jacqueline: When I was a classroom teacher, I would start out the year by introducing myself to my kids and telling them my story of how I came from Panama as a Spanish speaker. At parent-teacher conferences, I would tell the parents my story as well, and when I met with colleagues, I would share a little bit of my background. I realized that I told my story year after year for about ten years. After my friend published her book, that’s when I got the idea to write my story. I wanted to write it in the form of a children’s book to make it fun, interesting, and relatable.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story?
Jacqueline: Some of the key lessons are:
• The importance of grandparents who stand in the gap for so many families around the world.
• The love and care people in the community provide for children who need it the most.
• Educators who are part of the village that raises children and partner with families to ensure they blossom in a safe supportive environment.
• The importance of friendship and the kindness of children towards other children who may be feeling lost and just need someone to reach across and make a difference in their lives.
• The challenges single parents (men and women) face and the difficult decisions they make to ensure their children are supported and thrive.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
Jacqueline: The response has been positive and readers enjoy the story. To my surprise, everyone is asking for a sequel. They want to know what happens next for Jacquelina and how her story continues. Since Jacquelina’s Story was written for a middle school audience (ages 9-12), I was thinking about writing a story for the lower grade (Kindergarten to second grade) based on one of the chapters in Jacquelina’s Story. I will decide at a later time which direction I want to go in.
MCA: Tell us the importance of exploring young immigrant stories!
Jacqueline: When I think about immigrant stories, I think about them through the lens of an educator. Immigrants’ stories are rich with art, traditions, languages, cultures, foods, customs, and amazing stories of perseverance and triumph. Students can share the story of who they are, where they came from and how their communities influence the way they view their lives and future in a new country. It is important that immigrant stories be told and never forgotten.
MCA: We couldn’t agree more! If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
Jacqueline: That the support of family, community, educators, and friendships all contribute to the success of immigrant children in a new culture.
MCA: That is a powerful message, thank you for sharing, Jacqueline!
You can learn more about Jacqueline Atkins and her award-winning book, From Panamá to New York: Jacquelina’s Story, by visiting her MCA Shop pages.