Wednesday, January 25, 2017

MLK Celebration Week: Part One - Poetry For Peace @FairfieldU

One of the greatest partnerships I inherited when coming to Fairfield University was working with the English Department in support of Poetry For Peace. The contest is open for K-8 writers in Fairfield County and 1,000s of kids submit their responses, in poetic form, on what peace means to them. It is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. tradition on campus.

This year's event was scheduled during my graduate course on developing middle and high school readers, so I told colleagues, Carol Ann and Elizabeth, that I would make an evening of the event to model literacy-in-action for the course. They did service-learning by signing in winners, escorting families to seats, handing out certificates, and guiding K-8 writers across the stage.

I know it is biased, but I love the K-2 readers most, especially the enthusiastic ones who take the Mic with joy and happiness. One young man, Brice, entered the doors to the Quick Center and announced to all that he beat his brother for this contest and he was very proud. He was ready to read the second he walked in and seemed to bounce from person to person with wonder, "Are you the one who wants to hear my poem?". Another young girl skipped to the Mic, read her wonderful poem, and skipped away. It was so impressive to see the bravery of these kids as they lent their voice to the evening's festivity and occasion.

CWP-Fairfield simply works behind the scenes making certificates, providing support and occasionally doing workshops in schools. It is the vision of the English Department and the instruction of classroom teachers, however, who make this possible. Winners always represent the diversity of the county - which is beautiful and necessary to see in the 21st century. In total, 60 young people were recognized for their poetry.

The crowd was large, too, as families who were proud of their writers, brought flowers, relatives, and tremendous love for their spiffed-up, verse-loving youngsters. This event is simply one of my favorite ones of the year,  for it gives me pause to think about King's legacy, the importance of peace and hope for school-aged classrooms, and the need for poetry in our schools.

All winners are also offered a $50 scholarship toward attending a Young Adult Literacy Lab in the summer of 2017, should they choose come.

But now it's time to teach a turbo before  Faculty Salary Committee, the MLK dinner, and the MLK convocation!

I will carry their words in my heart all day.

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