Windham teacher Lynn Frazier wrote to Gruwell, telling her about the impassioned work of her young poets. She told Gruwell about what a difference writing makes for these students, about the impact Gruwell's story had on them, and about how these students had fundraisers and a
pancake breakfast to go hear Gruwell tell her story.
Before going on stage, Gruwell read that letter and was moved to tears. She then entered a nearly packed auditorium and singled out the 30 Windham High School students – telling them to stand up, thanking them for their work and for being there, and acknowledging them several more times during her speech.
As a Willimantic resident, I am proud to know that these students are in my neighborhood everyday, learning through writing and creative expression how to discover their potential and uniqueness.
I am also aware that the opportunities for such learning do not happen frequently enough, especially for high school students. Some argue that it's too late to provide "extra" activities, such as arts and creative thinking, that it won't make a difference in these teenagers' lives.
Yet, as the "Freedom Writers" movie and the Windham Young Poets demonstrate, sometimes expressing oneself with pen and paper is the ONLY thing keeping some students engaged in school.
Our challenge as a community is how to provide more learning opportunities like this, which focus on students' strengths and talents, on what's working and connecting, and on the hope and possibilities of these individuals.
Our community grows and thrives when people's creative capital is expressed in positive ways. These young people provide one example of how each of us might contribute in unique ways to developing our community. What next …?