Student writers share their passion with the community

By Erika DeLeo
Staff Writer

Fourteen students will act as teachers this semester in the experiential writing class, Writers in the Community, which occurs only once every three years. Two students each visit eight local facilities housing under-served populations. Locations served will include a senior living center, a homeless shelter, three mental and behavioral health facilities, a women’s shelter, a men’s rehabilitation center, and a support group for disabled adults. At these centers, students facilitate writing classes for participants. During the first two weeks of the class, the students develop lesson plans and practice them on each other. Three Prescott College students — Colleen Fitzgerald, Laura Hitt, and Ty Kipling — talked to The Raven Review about their hopes, fears and ambitions:

THE RAVEN REVIEW: Why did you decide to take Writers in the Community?

Fitzgerald: I’m an education student, and I want to teach English, so this is an ideal class. I’m excited to get more practical experience.

Kipling: I wanted to find a way to bring together my passion for writing with my desire to be … more active and service-oriented … and Writers in the Community seemed like the perfect solution.

Hitt: I’m taking this class because … it exemplifies why I came to Prescott College. … I am passionate about the importance of storytelling, how stories are vital for a culture, and I want to help people find their voices.

How do you feel about working with sheltered populations, including emotionally disturbed men, women, adolescents and those who have experienced trauma?

Fitzgerald: I’m working with some elderly folks, so I’m not sure how different that will be from working in the Juvenile Detention, for example, but I think it will present different challenges.

Hitt: I will be working with homeless women and adults with disabilities, and I am thrilled and honored and nervous about it. I want to instill in these people the idea that their stories matter.

Your instructor Melanie Bishop asks, “What it is about writing or reading that you treasure? And how can you go about sharing that with someone else?” Any ideas about how you will teach and connect with the students to help them unleash their creativity?

Fitzgerald: I really want them to just write. Once you write enough, you’ll eventually get an idea and want to write more about it.

Kipling: My co-facilitator and I fully intend to introduce elements of craft and to share masterful, inspiring readings … our main focus will be to awaken, encourage, and further the improvement of the writers in our classroom.

Hitt: I am going to try and connect with my classes by communicating how much I love writing and reading, and to provide a diverse range of writing exercises and reading materials. You never know what will speak to and inspire someone.

What is your biggest fear for this class? Your greatest hope?

Fitzgerald: I’m nervous my participants won’t trust me or won’t want to follow directions. I really hope I get to hear some amazing stories. That’s why I wanted to work with the folks at Good Samaritan; I love hearing stories from a long time ago and finding out what people experienced in their lives.

Kipling: My biggest fear is that I will fail to serve the class participants through an inability to inspire or properly instruct. I hope for the participants to produce a piece of work of which they are proud, and to discover their own love of writing.

Check back in upcoming issues for how the Writers in the Community students are doing.

This article appeared in the March 2011 print edition of The Raven Review.

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