By JENNIFER AMATO
NORTH BRUNSWICK – Neal Sehgal considers himself to be a “creative spirit.”
In his 20s, the former North Brunswick resident created a series of avante garde films that he screened internationally in places like Alaska and Morocco.
Deciding to pursue a career in teaching, he “gravitated more toward language and the implementation of projects using a love of language and a love of visual imagery.”
As a sixth grade language arts teacher at Linwood Middle School in North Brunswick, and now in the same capacity at a school in Bridgewater, Sehgal would share poetry he had written with his students for their feedback.
“It’s an outlet for self-creativity,” he said of what was once a hobby.
Now turning it into more of a directed passion, Sehgal compiled his original poems and photographs into his first book, “RISE,” which he calls a “convergence of the trials and tribulations I have faced.” It explores the themes of love, loss and perseverance in the face of those who try to bring you down.
“It really poured out of me in terms of poetry,” the 36-year-old said of delving into his career, relationships and his future through words and images.
“It’s therapeutic,” he said. “It’s cathartic.”
Although he had no intention of creating an actual book, Sehgal said he realized that he wanted to share the messages of rising up, detaching from the negative and focusing on the positive with others. The “self therapy” of compiling a book of poetry took about a year.
“It is an artifact of everything I’ve been through up to this point of my 36 years, and how I move into the future,” he said, likening it to a “volta” in poetry: he said the book is about evaluating his life and turning it to another direction.
In the same vein, Sehgal decided to share his message with others by donating “RISE” to various nonprofit organizations for their use in fundraising their own initiatives, such as Roots & Wings to help foster youth, the Homeless Solutions shelter and case management organization, the women of HeartWorks who provide acts of kindness to individuals in need, the Animals Battalion advocacy organization, the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter, the PS108 nonprofit educational center providing meditation and yoga classes, and an increasing number of public libraries, including one at the Morris County Juvenile Detention Center.
“Each sale of the book gives me the opportunity to donate to those who would otherwise not be able to afford the book and who could best benefit from the book’s message. The idea is that we all ‘rise together,'” he said. “It’s more about the true spirit of the book; it’s more authentic … while practicing what the book teaches.”
Currently working as a full-time tutor for literacy skills, reading comprehension and vocabulary building, Sehgal is working on his second book. He also has created archival footage from the 1940s-70s and made 300 videos on topics such as life skills and social-emotional learning available to students.
For more information, visit www.nealsehgal.com.
Contact Jennifer Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org.