English 409, Creative Writing in the Community, is an immersive service learning class here at Ball State. In the class, Ball State students work collaboratively with community partners from various facilities to create poems and stories. The class culminates in a printed anthology and a public reading of the imaginative works. On Thursday, April 18, Creative Writing in the Community will hold a public reading of the collaborative poems and stories at 6:30 PM in Cornerstone Center for the Arts. The public is welcome for the free event!
The following is one student’s recent experience in the class. This post is written by BSU student, Liz Janoson.
On day five of visiting my community partner I could tell she wasn’t in her normal chipper mood. She shuffled her feet when she came to greet me. She had a writing notebook in her hand: the one I had given her on our second meeting. My intention was for her to bring it every week.
She chose our designated writing space for the day and read out loud something she had written while she was in school that day. Though I don’t remember exactly what was written, I knew her intended audience was geared towards the people that bully her at school. My heart broke until the uplifting end in which she said something to the tune of: why can’t we all be friends and get along?
By the time our one hour tutoring session was done, I could tell that her mood had drastically changed. She was standing up and acting things out, she got so excited to tell me stories that she would forget to take breathes in the middle of her sentences, and she was requesting to do both old and new writing assignments. My writing partner was back to her old self.
When I signed up for English 409, Creative Writing in the Community, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, and, honestly, when I found out we would be working with children, I got a little nervous. Sure, I had babysat while I was in middle school, but I believe that is totally different than instilling creative writing techniques in a middle school student. My nerves were originating from the fear that I wouldn’t be an adequate teacher, tutor, or mentor.
There is something rewarding about reading work from a middle school student. Their level of imagination is something I’ve tried to cling to as I enter further into my twenties. Though I don’t want to call middle school students innocent, they still have the streak of a worldview that can be appreciated by everyone that has abandoned theirs long ago. The eagerness to learn made me eager to work hard in my other fields of study and just general life goals unassociated with academia—a kick of motivation I needed.
As I was leaving Motivate Our Minds (my partner’s after school program) one day, I told Mrs. Julie—the head of the organization—that my community partner made me look forward to my Mondays. She gave me a hug and then gave me a bag of chocolate covered pretzels and told me she would see me next week.
I am blessed that my community partner and I had an instant connection and that it resonated throughout our entire meeting process. I am more blessed that she felt a connection to me. That she felt comfortable to tell me she was being bullied, that she asked me questions about college motivated by her own desire to one day attend. One of my friends said to me that she wants nothing more than to be someone that younger girls look up to and think “I want to be like her one day.” It wasn’t until my friend said those words that I realized that was my ultimate goal.