By Tait Longhi, Blog Intern
As I walked into Monarch School in downtown San Diego, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I knew that I would be sitting in on an Adolescent Book Group to get a sense of what Words Alive volunteers do and see how it affects the teens. When Jeffery Goldman, Words Alive volunteer and former Board Chair,walked into the lobby and took me to the classroom, he gave me more details about the school, specifically how every child who walks through the doors has been affected by homelessness.
What struck me immediately was the excitement from the students to partake in the warm up activities. Jeffery tasked the kids with writing as many words ending with “r”, then “t”, then “e” in a minute. While all the kids focused on their own task at hand, however, there was still a level of collaboration with one another. The desire for each student to help their classmate was evident, giving the exercise a new depth. While it was a friendly competition, they wanted each other to succeed.
Next, Jeffery gave them their writing assignment for the session that would be turned in via Google Docs before the next time he meets with them. Since they were reading Night by Elie Wiesel, the writing topic was “when was there a time when you felt as if you lost hope, but overcame it.” This question obviously can get quite personal, but many of the students took it head on, while others pondered on what they might write about. Watching the natural writing process in these young students was inspiring and really brought me back to when I was young, first experiencing writer's block or nerves of starting to put words on paper. All that being said, the support from Jeffery, their teacher and fellow classmates got the ball rolling for most and those who didn’t finish their work knew that they could thaw out their ideas in time and share it with Jeffery when they were ready.
One student shared her piece with the class, about when her father fell and hit his head and had to go to the hospital. I was taken aback by how eloquent her story was and how much bravery it took to share her story, especially at her age. Upon leaving, Jeffery and I talked about the program. He explained that that the stories they kids tell are truly incredible and can even move him (or many) to tears.
As I got in my car and looked over my notes before leaving, I was particularly moved by how these kids threw themselves onto the page, or at least made the effort to. It reminded me of my own time in middle school a decade ago, and how vulnerable that can be but how important that process is. Self expression through writing can be one of the best ways to release or understand your own emotions or thoughts, in my personal opinion. The fact that Words Alive not only sees that, but promotes it to young children makes me particularly happy to be working (and writing) for this organization.