For her love of words on community spirit, San Bernardino Valley College English professor Dr. Sheela S. Free has been chosen by the prestigious Inlandia Literary Laureate for publication in their first edition of The San Bernardino Literary Anthology. 
This collection of poetry, art, and stories is intended to both honor our community and incite necessary changes within it. She is thrilled that her selections were chosen by the Inlandia Journal's IE Literary Laureate Nikia Chaney, who formerly taught in the SBVC English department. 
All three of Dr. Free’s submissions were selected for the anthology, and will be featured as a collection entitled, "San Bernardino: The Bright Side, the Dark Side." In her first poem, “San Bernardino Passion," Dr. Free explores the city's potential to grow and thrive through the eyes of protagonist Persimmon. The metaphorical marries the physical in her next poem "Uvulaic Rhapsody," with the battering Santa Ana winds symbolizing the good and bad whipping of seasonal change. 
"I used the Santa Ana winds for all of us San Bernardinans, and for what a strong spine we have," she said. "It teaches us to stiffen up our spine." 
For the “dark side” of San Bernardino, her poem "Kick Down Their Doors" speaks to the harsh economic meltdown, the bankruptcy, and some real reasons behind the gangs and posses barging into the gated communities. 
"They started forming what police called the smash and grab team, ‘Kick Down Their Doors’ captures the dark spirit of San Bernardino. It speaks to the 99 percent that are hurting each other, while the one percent are getting away with it," she said. 
Two of Dr. Free’s poems selected for the anthology are from her 2009 book, "Of Fractured Clocks, Bones and Windshields." This collection of poetry was nominated for the Association of Asian American Studies as well as the Asian American Workshop awards in 2010. 
She has won several other accolades in the past, such as praise for her depiction of grief and loss in "Magnolia.” This early piece of her’s described her journey coping with the death of her daughter and preserving her father's memory as a U.N. peace-keeping combat physician. 
"It reminds me of life being completely transient and ephemeral, but we have to make it count one way or the other," she said. 
She was also recognized with the 2001 Campus Faculty Award by the Center for the Study of Diversity in Teaching & Learning and the Chancellor’s Office for California Community Colleges. She won tribute in the 2000 International Who’s Who of Professionals, along with the 2000 Certificate of Merit for the Outstanding Academic Adviser Award by the National Academic Advising Association.  
Dr. Free holds a Bachelor's, Master’s, and Ph.D. in English Literature and Language. Over the past 16 years, Dr. Free, now a world literature expert, has taught at San Bernardino Valley College, which offers a wide palette of advanced literature classes. 
Despite the delivery of literature having changed from previous decades, she still feels that students love words, and words will always be the foundation of social action, powering up their inner muse. 
"There is a way to turn them onto it. They are reading, but they are not reading in the traditional way, so you have to actually get the hook in and turn them onto it, and watch them fly from there."