Even when I consider my own high school experience, few spaces inside a school have
felt safer than Butler Writers at Shortridge. It has nothing to do with the physical space itself —
it’s the students. From the very beginning of the semester, it was clear they were going to be
some of the most accepting people I’ve met. I didn’t know what to expect on our first day. In
hindsight, the idea that any of the mentors were nervous seems silly. Honestly, I just wanted
them to like me. From everything I remember about high school, there was always a sense of
exclusivity when it came to who was accepted and who wasn’t. I was never able to understand
what this was based off of. It was an X factor no one ever bothered to define for me.
Butler Writers was different. There were no parameters or conditions that must be met in
order to gain acceptance. It was universally granted regardless of anyone’s identity. I think
creating that level of acceptance, especially among high schoolers, is extremely difficult, but is
something that has been built into the fabric of what Butler Writers is through the combination of
the students and mentors.
Acceptance allowed us — mentors and students — to talk about our days honestly
without feeling the need to filter anything out. I didn’t have to say I was having a good day even
if I wasn’t and the same went for them. As a mentor, I didn’t have to be perfect or pretend like I
had it all together on a day to day basis. I think I was actually able to connect better with students
when they understood it was okay to say that something at time just really sucked. Honesty about
the little things, like how good or bad your day may have been, ultimately translated into our
ability to be honest in our writing. There’s a certain level of vulnerability that comes with letting
someone read your writing, and at Shortridge, having something like open mic was only made
possible because we could be honest about an experience or our view of the world and know that
we would still be accepted.
Dana Lee is a senior journalism major.