Dean's Blog: Valentine's Day & High School

Ah, Valentine’s Day. Is there any day more polarizing for high-school-age writers? Every year around this time we see our youth fall to one side of the love/hate fence with the holiday. Many of our kids love this time of year: after all, it’s a time for us to specifically tell the people we care about how much we care. Others, however, take a different perspective and aim to drag the holiday through the mud. “Sometimes,” to quote one Podium writer named Aaron in his talking about today, “we even try to make new mud with tears and just a little bit of blood.” How vivid.

It’s gotten to be a trend to host a workshop on these complex feelings around this time. Some years we’ve had youth write a love poem without cliches like hearts and colors; others we’ve had them write stories about the types of love we don’t think about every day, such as that between families or pets. This year, we’re talking about first and last loves in our programs. Yesterday was our first day running the program at Thomas Jefferson High School, and, boy, did we get some diverse pieces. The overall goal of the workshop is to balance your unique voice and your relationship to the person, place, or thing you love, and the conventions of writing in formatting and structure. In order to do so, youth were given free-reign to organize their pieces in whatever way possible, including totally abandoning those conventions, in order to convey their special messages to either their first or last loves.

If I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I am so consistently impressed by the creativity of Podium youth. From writing in a circle to represent love’s eternal power to writing in the shape of elementary school notes on scrap paper, to a creating game that offers the player different questions based on their responses about love, our kids excelled in representing their unique relationships. Ultimately they did recognize that certain conventions are necessary for conveying ideas; sometimes, however, in order to speak most clearly to one’s audience, you have to think outside the box. As a writer, a conductor of thoughts, you have the power to utilize visuals, utilize sounds and movements, utilize all five sense (and sometimes even a few extra) in order to convey meaning exactly how your audience needs to understand it. Be the hero of words they deserve.

Valentine's Day & Middle School

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and students in Project Write Now at Henderson Middle School all agree that when asking someone out for the first time, it is better to do it in person. It may not be easier, but it is better.

During our workshop on Tuesday, February 6th, students chose to discuss scenarios in which they would prefer to text someone, call someone, or talk in person. Students and mentors explored their reasoning for these preferences and why face-to-face interactions are more real.

We asked, “Wouldn’t you rather have someone ask you out in person? What if you were asking them out?”

“I’d have to bring my close friends with me because I might be too nervous.” said Shikyna Vincent.

“Why not a letter? We don’t do that anymore.” I said.

James Godbold, an 8th grader at Henderson, told us that he would recite a poem to the girl he wanted to ask out. James shared part of his poem with us.

“Females are like a puzzle with 1000 pieces and there are always 2 pieces missing…”

We all agreed that sometimes it is easier to send a text, or pick up the phone, but despite our modern digital age, the face time that we have with someone in person, is still better than the screen time we could have with that person, even if it is just to ask someone out. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Growing as a Mentor

Oneisha was one of Podium's teen Writing Mentorship Project leaders this summer in Podium's summer programs at the East End District Family Resource Center and Peter Paul Development Center. This is what Oneisha had to say about her views on mentorship:

“Mentorship is very important in a world where people can be misguided and misjudged because they lack guidance. If a child, or even an adult, can have a mentor to show how things can turn out for better or for worse with the path you choose, then more people can be making great decisions instead of reckless ones that they did not know could mess up their livelihood, all because they lack guidance. For me being a mentor means that someone trusts me enough to help them when they are in need; it creates a bond of trust that every relationship needs. For my mentee, I would hope it means the same, that they feel some sort of safety in my presence and that they can share whatever they need with me.

        Deciding to become a writing mentor was never something I actually thought about, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I like the thought of helping someone ejecting their emotions through writing, because when you write with emotion of any kind it tends to be explained very well through your words without your knowing most of the time. Writing has always been something I loved and would never want or allow someone to take that from me. I want to tell other children that, too--that no one can take your words and that what you write has to be liked by you before it can be liked by your audience. Your confidence has to show through your work and your performance. I just want to be able to share that with them.

        During my role in the Writing Mentorship Project, I have learned that everyone does not think like me. I have also learned that I need to put my best foot forward in situations that could make me uncomfortable. I have learned that showing how you feel on the job can affect your work environment and even the students. In the end, I learned it is always a group effort that counts at the end of the day.”