This semester was different. Signing up for this course, I was shown countless pictures of Shortridge and Butler students coexisting and intermingling, surrounded by Scrabble boards and in big, cohesive circles for rap battles. I distinctly remember Professor Speckman coming to talk to my FYS during my first year here to advertise the EN455 course. I made a note in the back of my planner that I wanted to eventually take that class, as he shared handouts of poems and stories that the high schoolers had written. Now, as a senior, I finally got that chance to take the class. The Shortridge writing club room was empty, there were no Scrabble boards, no lingering after Butler Writers to chat with students about upcoming tests and events in their lives. We were the pioneers—both Butler and Shortridge students alike—of an impossible task: creating a safe, open, productive, fun place for students to gather and share ideas...over computer screens. It wasn’t easy, but I reckon we all learned a lot about ourselves and each other in the process.

This semester may have started off rocky; it certainly had its ups and downs. Through it all, I felt thankful for my supportive peers (some of whom became close friends) and the awesome, talented, committed students who made up the Butler Writers club this semester. It is a really special thing to be able to come together as a group of academics and creatively express ourselves, and I feel a large sense of pride when I think about all of the amazing poems, short stories, raps, and fan-fiction pieces that were shared throughout our time together. While I cannot and will not take any credit for the work shared by students, I will say that I think Butler Writers gives many students, who may otherwise be too shy or self-conscious, a chance to feel valued and safe in expressing themselves. Especially in the world we live in today, it is so important to feel a sense of community and belonging and this, above all else, is what I learned in EN455 this semester. When a group of individuals can come together and offer a community of care and non-judgment, really beautiful things can happen; friendships can be formed, great art can be created, and confidence can be built. I believed that I would be the one serving as a vital mentor this semester and, while that may have been part of it, I also learned how to be a better listener, a more confident version of myself, and a more expressive writer from the students in Butler Writers. This experience really humbled me and made me even more eager to become an educator in a field which I feel I can make a great impact on students for the years to come.

Carli Domingos is a senior English and Anthropology double major.

This semester, I looked forward to writer’s workshop every week and was thrilled to learn that we would spend the remainder of the semester having both Tuesday and Thursday classes with the Shortridge students. I enjoyed the company of my classmates as well as that of the high school students, and it broke up the monotony of being alone and stuck in the house every day. Would it have been better if we were meeting in person? Absolutely. But after months of being sad, hopeful, defeated, optimistic, depressed, refreshed, resentful and so on, one learns to be grateful for any interaction with a human being, no matter how small or virtual. My fear about having an entirely virtual writer’s workshop and still making an impact was put to bed here—it seems that everyone enjoyed the workshops we had because they were a constant and something upon which we could all rely. This year, consistency is hard to come by, and everyone knows how important consistency is for young people. Therefore, I truly believe that our workshop experiences this semester were as impactful and essential for the Shortridge students as they were for my fell classmates and me...

Human interaction has been essential for me since the onset of the pandemic, and this regular opportunity for just that is something for which I will always be grateful. I certainly feel the sense of success that I was hoping I would when this class started. It looks different than I expected. I feel secure in the knowledge that I was part of a workshop that presented a much-needed escape from a difficult reality into a community of like-minded individuals with an appreciation for the written word and togetherness. I hope and am certain that I will continue to hear more about the successes of these students–I was repeatedly struck by their big hearts, insane creative abilities and ability to smile and make me smile despite impossible circumstances. I hope to read more from these students in the future, which already looks much brighter to me.

Rachael Seamands is a graduate student in the MFA Creative Writing program.

At the beginning of the semester, I was excited to work with Shortridge students and hoped I could pass along my love of writing to them. I was also aware that our first priority was making sure the basic needs of the students were met. One of the things I was looking forward to the most was getting to interact with people who come from different backgrounds than my own. I wanted to see what it was like to be an IPS student and learn about how they see the world. Having an opportunity to entrench myself in the Indianapolis community in such a direct way was incredibly appealing to me. I wanted to leave Butler feeling like I had actually engaged with the city I had lived in the last four years.

The part I did not expect was the impact Shortridge students would have on me. We worked together to find a way to make writing fun, which did not happen very often when I was in high school. I was inspired by the passion and dedication students like D— and J— showed. They helped remind me why I fell in love with writing in the first place. They also pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone. I can count on one hand the number of times I had written poetry before I signed up for this class. The energy and enthusiasm everyone around me had was infectious. I found it so refreshing to come to Shortridge twice a week and just, forget about everything else that was going on, and write about whatever came to mind.

The events of this semester worked together to create an experience I will not forget any time soon. Seeing Shortridge and IPS move everything online gave me an even better understanding of what life is like as an urban high school student. I got to personally see what it looked like for multiple months and see everything that was lost when it was no longer safe for students to go to school. Through the time we spent at Shortridge and the books we read, I learned how many problems the U.S. public school system faces, particularly in urban areas like Indianapolis. I come away from this class a more informed and aware member of society because many of the challenges students face are representative of larger issues that go far beyond the educational system. The knowledge I gained about the connections between education and society is something I can apply in a variety of ways for the rest of my life.

Joshua Doering is a senior Sports Media major.