Students at Clark-Moores Middle School had a special visitor Friday afternoon, who left them with a powerful message about perseverance and hard work.

Lexington-native C.C. Payne stopped by to talk to students about her published book, "The Thing About Leftovers." The book was recently given the Kentucky Bluegrass Award (KBA) for the 6-to-8-year-old category.

The KBA is a student-choice program that allows children to select their favorite books from annually published master lists created by librarians, teachers and other adults. The program is designed to encourage students to read widely from lists of current, well-reviewed literature that reflect a variety of experiences and points of view.

"I am humbled and honored to be able to bring The Kentucky Bluegrass Award home to the Bluegrass state. Over 56,000 students across the state of Kentucky read multiple books (they can't vote if they only read one) and voted in the KBAs this year, which is a testament to our school librarians," Payne said. "I share this award with every school librarian in the state of Kentucky, and while I know it isn't enough, it's all I have to offer. Well, that, and these two little words -- thank you."

Payne's book intertwines humor, heartache and hope to tell Fizzy's story about feeling like leftovers while trying to navigating life with divorced parents, a blended family, and finding her passion and true self.

Fizzy's story sounds a lot like many families today, including Payne's, which is one of the reasons why Library Media Specialist Deana Flannery thought it would be a great idea to invite Payne to speak with students at Clark-Moores.

"It had such a strong message that so many of our kids today need to hear. She feels like a leftover and doesn't fit in," Flannery said. "Unfortunately, in today's society, we have more kids that feel like her than we do that don't because of changing family dynamics."

Payne also shared with students about her own experiences of rejection as an aspiring author. Before her first book was published, she had received more than 150 rejection letters from literary agencies and publishing houses all over the country.

Flannery was able to bring Payne to Clark-Moores through their GEAR UP program, which is spearheaded by Jennifer Ramsey, Vanessa Ballew, Sherry Ausmus and Kandy Stamper. Their motto, "Commit not to quit," pairs well with Payne's message of never giving up on oneself and working hard to persevere, despite your circumstances.

The GEAR UP program, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. The program follows a cohort of students until they graduate high school, beginning no later than seventh grade.

Reach Kaitlyn Brooks at 624-6608; follow her on Twitter @kaitlynsbrooks.

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