I remember spending time in my high school’s creative writing club. We were a group of never more then ten, all good friends, led by a teacher who gave us a sense of place and comfort. However, because of the environment, we never outstepped out boundaries, we never pushed ourselves, and we became disillusioned with our own writing because we lived in a comfort zone that no one bothered to press. As much as I enjoyed the experience, in the end, I’m not sure if I gained much as a writer or as a person.
Shortridge, however, is different. There are many things I see these students gaining through our interactions, but above all what I find prevailing is courage. And courage is a hard thing to have in many of the environments that these kids come from. But it’s an important quality; one I feel might really be able to make a difference in their lives. A little more courage to stand up and read a poem might become a little more courage to face their class, their peers, or their community with a speech. The courage to challenge oneself with writing transforms to the courage to apply for that college that everyone else tells you is out of your league. It’s something my mother always told me, with the wise words of Yoda, “there is no try, only do.”
And that’s what I see in these kids. I see a suddenly quiet kid raise their voice in poetic verse without an ounce of shyness in their tone. I see kids afraid to write suddenly catch a creative spark and spill out pages on the desk. I see kids reading for their first time, kids experiencing for the first time, and kids having a chance to be completely open, whether it’s on the page or with each other. There’s going to be a lot of obstacles for these kids, but I feel a little better about it knowing that we’ve given them the chance to have a voice, to have courage, and to take strides with it.
Writing is a lot of things. It’s for pleasure, for comfort, for change, for friends, for yourself, for the world – but it always has purpose. There’s no such thing as “just writing” and certainly no “meaningless writing.” I want the students to walk away with this realization. That writing, no matter what for, is giving them something. Even if it doesn’t feel like much right now, when you pull out a poem ten years later and look back on where you where then and who you’ve become, you’ll feel pride in those old words. Or at least, that’s what I hope our students will feel.
Kate Shertzer is a junior English Creative Writing major.