Book tries to crack facade

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jose Rosado walks next to the tree in Bethlehem where his mentor and Bethlehem Area School District educator Iris Cintron challenged him to turn his life around by enrolling in college. He is now an assistant principal at East Hills Middle School in the district.

Jose Rosado has told his story to individuals and small groups, always with the hope that it will inspire someone to change his life.

It begins in poverty, in a brown paper bag of booze and a haze of marijuana smoke. It ends with Rosado as a successful educator in the Bethlehem Area School District, a respected community activist and occasional political candidate.

''I'm not worried about skeletons in the closet,'' said Rosado, 44, an assistant principal at East Hills Middle School. ''I let them out a long time ago.''

Now Rosado is hoping to reach a bigger audience. He's shelled out $9,000 to self-publish an autobiography about growing up poor in Bethlehem public housing, becoming a father as a pot-smoking, boozing 19-year-old college student and giving up alcohol cold turkey 17 years ago.

''Being Good At Being Bad: Troubled Teenagers, Factors and Solutions'' intersperses Rosado's experiences and beliefs with national statistics to outline what he believes leads to happy children becoming angry teenagers on the brink of failure: broken homes, failed legislation and poor role models. The book, through, sells for $13.95.

''Just by the feedback I've received from people, they are happy I've addressed many of these issues of troubled teens head-on,'' Rosado said. ''I'm willing to put myself out there with my thoughts on these controversial issues.''

While making money on the book would be nice, Rosado said, he is not holding out hope his book will become a best-seller. He is not embarrassed that he went the self-publishing route after a few traditional publishing houses turned him down. He's not worried about what people may think of him or his beliefs. He's just happy he had the guts to write what he has been preaching for more than two decades.

Rosado retold his story late last year while sitting on a shopping cart abandoned under a tree near Lebanon Street and Eastwood Road in Bethlehem's Marvine-Pembroke development. Rosado grew up there after his first home was razed in the South Terrace development in south Bethlehem.

Rosado knew what the shopping cart symbolized: poverty and despair. It was probably left there by a public housing resident who couldn't afford a car, he said, so it was used to get groceries home and abandoned, much like the resident's own dreams of a better life.

Rosado recalled that it was under the same tree 25 years earlier when he decided to retrieve his dreams, with a not-so-gentle nudging from longtime Bethlehem Area School District educator Iris Cintron.

''I was working at Hardy's on Airport Road; they've been closed forever,'' Rosado said. ''I came home, showered, shaved and did my normal routine. I grabbed a quart of beer and relaxed under the tree. Iris happened to be driving by, stopped, got out of the car and said, 'What are you planning to do?'''

With Cintron's guidance, Rosado put down the spatula that earned him minimum wage, got two college degrees and became a school guidance counselor and administrator who has used his personal experience of growing up and getting out of the projects to help individual students.

Cintron said Rosado's personal story connects with students.

''The kinds of barriers Jose has faced and the kinds of mountains he's had to climb are the same mountains many of our kids face on a daily basis,'' said Cintron, now the district's supervisor of Minority Affairs/Governmental Programs and Grants.

As far as his book is concerned, Cintron said, the ideas are Rosado's, not her's or the school district's. But she said his book makes you think.

Bethlehem Police Commissioner Randy Miller got to know Rosado when Miller was a rookie patrolman in the Marvine-Pembroke development, which in the 1970s and 1980s was so rife with violence and drugs that when two police cars responded to a call, a third was brought in to guard the cars. While he has not read Rosado's book, Miller said, he has always respected him for getting out of the developments.

''I always respected him for trying to better himself versus becoming another statistic,'' Miller said. ''He's a respected citizen.''

The new author does not pull punches in describing what he thinks leads to those grim statistics on dropouts, gangs, prisoners and substance abusers.

''What is 'Being Good At Being Bad?''' Rosado asked. ''Being good at being bad is a lifestyle, it's about status and recognition, it's about masking pain and failure with a tough facade.''